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BC Library Conference 2017

April 19–21, 2017

Vancouver, BC

F13 - Using the Capability Approach in Digital Inclusion

Friday, April 21, 2017 at 1:00 PM–1:45 PM PDT
Salon F
Session Description

The capability approach is a theory of equality meant to guide and assess public policy and programs. Rather than emphasizing equality of resources or formal rights, the approach focuses on equality of capabilities. These are commonly defined as the effective freedoms individuals have to be and do the things they have reason to value.
Initiated by philosopher Martha Nussbaum and economist/philosopher Amartya Sen, the approach has now been developed and applied in a variety of contexts for several decades. While it has probably influenced library work in indirect ways due to its common emphasis on literacy, the capability approach has only recently been engaged with directly in the LIS literature on libraries and social justice.
With the successes of community-led librarianship in reaching out to non-users, the time is ripe to look at how the capability approach can be used to build a base of evidence around digital inclusion in libraries and to continue the work of making our institutions more just. In this light, the session will explore digital inclusion practices emphasizing front-line service work helping to level the playing field and build necessary social capital. Practical strategies and advice will be provided.
More generally, this presentation will use the capability approach to ask: In an age of entrenched inequality and widening social distance, how can public libraries overcome barriers, not merely through formal access, but by building institutions based on respect for each person’s effective freedom to be and do the things they have reason to value?


Joseph Haigh, NWPL, Langara College

Joe Haigh is a reference librarian at the New Westminster Public Library and Langara College. His professional background is in reference services, collections, instruction, and online course creation. His research interests are libraries and social justice, assessment, library support for degree completion, and the relationship between libraries and the welfare state.

Shelley Wilson-Roberts, New Westminster Public Library

Shelley Wilson-Roberts is Acting Head of Public Services at the New Westminster Public Library. She has been in public libraries for 12 years in a variety of roles, but always with a public service focus. She is co-chair of the BCLA Readers' Advisory Interest Group.

Faith Jones, New Westminster Public Library

Faith Jones is Library Director at Columbia College and teaches public librarianship at UBC's iSchool. Her research interests are library history and libraries in the social sphere.