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Libraries as Sites of Care and Maintenance in the Smart City

Libraries as Sites of Care and Maintenance in the Smart City (LAPS DARE Project) is an active DARE research project that investigates the intersection of the politics of care and librarianship in the production of intelligent communities or smart cities. Libraries are gaining more attention in smart city discussions as key sites of innovation, digital inclusion, and data maintenance. More recently (as seen in Toronto), libraries have become important spaces of public care for the homeless, the marginalized, and new immigrants, and other vulnerable groups with the hiring of a full-time social worker in the Toronto Public Library System. This research borrows from Nigel Thrift and Stephen Graham’s (2007) theorizations on maintenance and repair in cities. At the crux of their argument is that cities are continually being “fixed” through mundane, piecemeal activities of upkeep and repair that reflect improvisational resilience. This study brings these theoretical conversations on the politics of care, repair, and maintenance into current conversations on the reconfiguring role of the Toronto Public Library in the context of smart cities as a site that facilitates digital inclusion, skills training for new immigrants and youth, entrepreneurial and innovation labs, safe and accessible spaces vulnerable groups. With the recent announcement from the Toronto Region Board of Trade calling for the Toronto Public Library to oversee and create policies related to data collected at Sidewalk Labs’ proposed smart city for the Quayside development, critical research on this topic is needed to address growing concerns of the lack of safe and accessible spaces in this new digital age of city-building. This research builds on Nigel Thrift’s (2005) conceptualization of social repair, by showing how in the context of the smart city, Toronto is focusing on digital repair to improve service efficiency, social and environmental sustainability which would create a more economically competitive city region to invest and live in. However, it seems that libraries are key sites that will provide the social repair to both facilitate and mediate the smart city.
Dr. Teresa Abbruzzese (Principal Investigator)

Teresa Abbruzzese is Sessional Assistant Professor in the Urban Studies Program in the Department of Social Science at York University. Teresa's teaching and research interests weave together critical social, urban, and cultural theory. Teresa’s scholarly trajectory is fuelled by her passionate interest in investigating urban sociospatial struggles through different lenses. Along her scholarly travels, she has investigated the politics of road entertainment and struggling mobilities of fairground travelers in Southern Italy; traced Bruce Springsteen’s tracks in his search for place and identity at the heart of his urban narratives and songwriting processes; examined sociospatial articulations of neoliberal urbanism by specifically looking at metropolitan governance and social housing issues, as well as suburban sprawl, regional equity, and place-based social movements in North America.

Tony Riley (DARE Recipient)

Tony Riley is an undergraduate third year Urban Studies student at York University. He was recently awarded the Lillian Lerman Book Prize and the Francis Frisken Award from the Department of Social Science, and the Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Dean's Award for Research Excellence. Tony seeks to blend his technical media skills with critical urban research and planning goals related to technological equity for low-income populations. His research interests include opiate harm-reduction, the development and renewal of affordable housing in Toronto, and crisis management in South/South-East Asia.