Voices on the Margins: Libraries, Community Agency, and Black Public Spheres


  • Elizabeth Johnson Effective 1/3/22, library director at College of Southern Idaho. Currently I am an MLIS student at St. Catherine University
  • Donald Culverson


Public libraries, Dr. Elfreda Chatman, Black library professionals & patrons, and agency


Scholars of library and information sciences have addressed the critical roles of libraries in energizing the public sphere, or the social spaces in which ideas and opinions are exchanged. But seldom is the discussion of race, racism, and marginalization examined in public libraries. The concept of the public sphere represents a critical foundation for examining the roles libraries play in illuminating voices in the civic culture of a society. Who is the public, and why are their voices important? How can libraries respond to the reconfiguration of contemporary publics? How should libraries engage in the production, organization, and distribution of information access? Drawing from public sphere perspectives, this paper explores not just how libraries can be more responsive to the changing political, economic, social and educational climates of the 21st century, but also how expanded conceptualization of public roles might contribute to democratic revitalization.

Author Biography

  • Elizabeth Johnson, Effective 1/3/22, library director at College of Southern Idaho. Currently I am an MLIS student at St. Catherine University

    This article is co-authored with Dr. Donald Culverson.

    Elizabeth Johnson (Bowling Green State University, Ph.D.) is the library director at the College of Southern Idaho and in St. Catherine University Library and Information Science program. She is the author of Resistance and Empowerment in Black Women’s Hair Styling.


    Donald Culverson (University of California, Santa Barbara, Ph. D.) is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Justice Studies at Governors State University in University Park, IL. He has published articles in journals such as Race and ClassTransAfrica Forum, and Political Science Quarterly, and is the author of Contesting Apartheid: U. S. Activism, 1960-1987.


    Johnson and Culverson authored Female Narratives in Nollywood Melodramas which investigates how identities for West African women are created and recreated through the broad interplay of Nollywood film viewing on social and individual levels. Since many Nollywood films are freely accessible online, the role of online communities repurposes Nollywood films. The authors examine nine Nollywood melodramas through Black feminist, cultivation, audience reception, and social identity theories.



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