Siobhan Stevenson (Ph.D.) is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. After ten years working with an agency of the Ontario government responsible for the coordination of autonomous public library boards through the development of policies, programs and funding opportunities designed to that end, Siobhan returned to the University of Western Ontario to pursue her Ph.D. The problems that she addresses in her research revolve around issues she encountered in the field, specifically the role of class struggle in the public policy process, and the ways in which it manifests in competing visions of today’s information societies. Her object of analysis is often the local public library because, among other reasons, its ubiquity combined with its seeming banality make it a compelling site for the study of the complex ways in which state institutions serve to legitimate and reproduce the status quo. Currently, she is conducting a historical study on labour relations in public libraries across Canada from the early 1950s through to today’s information economy. In that study, she frames her research questions thus:
If reference desks are being dismantled as users turn increasingly to Google, collections downsized to make room for more user spaces, and traditional practices like acquisitions and cataloguing are being outsourced; if, indeed, circulation clerks are being replaced by self-checkout and check-in machines, and customers are invited to do more for and by themselves (vis-à-vis the library’s website), what exactly are the public librarians who used to staff the reference desk, engage in acquisitions, and catalogue materials now doing? Similarly how are the clericals who staffed the circulation desk being redeployed?
For her TEDxLibrariansTO talk, she will present findings from a critical discourse analysis covering over 50 years of provincial library planning policy documents for services in Ontario, the results of which should give all public librarians and their supporters pause.