Maria Laura Ruiu & Massimo Ragnedda (2017): The Quadruple Helix Model of Libraries: The Role of Public Libraries in Newcastle upon Tyne, Public Library Quarterly, DOI: 10.1080/01616846.2017.1318642
This article is based on semistructured interviews with library staff members in order to explore both how they perceive the role of libraries in most deprived areas in Newcastle upon Tyne and how they relate with their patrons. We show that public libraries play a primary role in activating a virtuous cycle, in which infrastructures, skills, and increased ability of users to achieve their goals simultaneously result from and feed social inclusion strategies. However, some limits might be related to the availability of public economic resources that tends to affect the smaller libraries by reducing opening times and services provided.
The present article explores the quadruple helix model (see Figure 1) adopted by public libraries in Newcastle upon Tyne (from now, Newcastle), located in northeast England, which serve a population of 280,177 inhabitants (ONS 2011ONS. 2011. DC1104EW – Residence type by sex by age.http://www.ons.gov.uk/census). The four helixes of this model are represented by infrastructures (physical inclusion of users), skills (immaterial benefits deriving from an efficient use of infrastructures and activities), and ability (to achieve goals and be more integrated within a society which requires high degree of specialisation), as well as social inclusion (final goal and generator of a new process based on infrastructures, new skills and goals). Social inclusion is interpreted as both generator and consequence of infrastructures, skills, and ability to reach specific goals.
It refers to libraries as facilitators for accessing knowledge and information in relation to their role in enhancing lifelong learning, independent decision-making, and cultural development of the individual and social groups (IFLA/UNESCO 1994IFLA/UNESCO. 1994. The IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto.http://www.ifla.org/VII/s8/unesco/manif.htm). This means that the role of public libraries is not limited to providing infrastructure, but also to ensuring that library users acquire those skills necessary to efficiently and equally access the resources available. This is especially evident in the digital era in which expert knowledge is needed to access information (Ragnedda and Muschert 2013Ragnedda, M., and G. Muschert, Eds. 2013. The digital divide: The internet and social inequality in international perspective. London, UK: Routledge.). For this reason, libraries have evolved from being only physical places to a hybrid form (Kapitzke 2001Kapitzke, C. 2001. Information literacy: The changing library. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 44 (5):450–456.) in which physical and digital features coexist. In this direction, some authors refer to the concept of “cybrary” to explain the role of libraries in combining service delivery in person and online (Schmidt 2006Schmidt, J. 2006. From library to cybrary: Changing the focus of library design and service delivery. In Libr@ries: Changing information space and practice, eds. C. Kapitzke, and B. C. Bruce, 57–72. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.).