Friday 25 January 2013

The 'Disneyfication' of Public Libraries

I got the idea for this piece from a comment a fellow library worker made to me recently in relation to the changes to Public Library Services and his own role, he said;

“it’s all becoming a joke; it’s a bit of a ‘Mickey Mouse’ job now”

This prompted me to think of the current ‘development’ of Public Libraries in relation to the theory of 'Disneyfication'.

A corporate mutant made up of Mickey Mouse & Uncle Moneybags.


“Disneyfication referred to the often criticized way in which Walt Disney, his co-workers and their successors put an original work through a Disney mincer to emerge with a distorted version of it”

What we are seeing is our libraries, the original work, being put through the mincer and coming out 'distorted' as ‘hub’, ‘community library’, 'Discovery Centre', 'Library Plus', 'Idea Store', 'Library Local', ‘Lounge’, ‘Hive’ and in my previous authority, Hackney, as ‘Technology Learning Centre’, which the staff renamed ‘Totally Lost and Confused’ due to the fact that the public would very often come in, after walking past several times, and say “is this the library?"

Library staff are pushed out of the mincer as ‘Learning and Information Assistants’, ‘Customer Service Assistants’. ‘Knowledge Managers’ and a multitude of other job titles that don’t contain any indication of what profession or sector the person actually works in!

And finally the services that libraries offer emerge from the same mixer over diversified partly due to co-location and sharing services but also due to a general policy of pulling people in through the doors by any means necessary, which yes in the short term does boost footfall but I believe in the long term leads to a muddled message! This muddled message about the core offer of libraries can be seen in the way they are very often branded as leisure options and often end up in leisure/culture/arts directorates within local council structures and in the way policy makers now allocate funding.

Another strand of this theory interests me and that’s ‘emotional labour’ especially in relation to the deprofessionalisation of library work and the introduction of self serve and other retail/commercial models of delivery in which it could be argued depersonalises the job and replaces true emotional interaction with members/users with one that is artificially controlled and scripted;

“Not only does this process result in ‘new depths in…deskilling (1998: 64) but also it entails control of the self through emotional labour, which has been defined as the ‘act of expressing socially desired emotions during service transactions’ ”

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