Workplace learning: how space and place inform and influence librarian learning. An institutional ethnography




Inget, Carla Jill

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Public libraries have frequently been referred to as a ‘third place,’ which is defined as the place between home and work where people meet to exchange ideas, learn, and have a good time (Oldenburg, 2014). New and award-winning library branches have been built in Winnipeg, Halifax, and Calgary, and these central downtown branches provide not only access to books, but also to community meeting spaces and to social services; these major developments speak to the dynamic nature of the public library and to its importance in Canadian urban settings. As cities seek to redesign their public library spaces, the emphasis is on service provision and the community and its patrons. But, what about the librarian? What is the librarian’s experience of and in this space? This study explores the librarian’s experience in the public library space, and how this space informs and shapes librarian’s learning. Employing the principles of institutional ethnography, data were gathered through semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and textual analysis. A detailed picture of the work of librarians emerged through the indexing process, and three key spaces in the public library emerged from the data to ground and situate the participants experiences and learning at work. The data revealed the ways these spaces inform, influence and shape participants’ experiences and learning; the impact of some spaces is explicit and formal while other spaces provide an incidental or informal impact on participants.



institutional ethnography, workplace learning, virtual work, public library, space and place, librarian