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‘More than Borrowing’: Libraries Enabling Inclusion in the Smart City

‘More than Borrowing’: Libraries Enabling Inclusion in the Smart City is an active research project that focuses on a comparative intervention on ‘smart cities’ by examining three public libraries—the Boston Public Library, Seattle Public Library and Toronto Public Library systems—and their different approaches to creating and envisioning the smart city. These three libraries were featured at the recent international Intelligent Cities Summit in Toronto. The main research question that guides this study is: how does an empirical focus on public libraries reveal more accessible, inclusive and gendered articulations of this technical concept and urban vision. While attention in Toronto has been focused on initiatives like Sidewalk Labs’ Quayside development, as it is the first time a multinational corporation has been retained to serve as master developer, the contradictory role of libraries as enablers and as sites of democratic intervention has not been addressed in critical scholarly interventions of the smart city. Libraries are recognized as a site of resilience and innovation within a development imperative that mitigates the digital divide by providing citizens with access to: technology; digital literacy and e-learning programs; space to conduct individual work and to have meetings; and opportunities to make further connections in the community. We argue that libraries are playing a more integral role in cities that goes beyond reading literacy and are now reconfiguring as innovation hubs prioritizing digital inclusion as a mandate. Currently much of the literature on libraries being catalysts for citizen-centred approaches to inclusion, education, and economic development in cities in the Global North and Global South exists mainly in digital literacy, libraries and information management conversations.
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.

Brandon Takayuki Hillier (Research Assistant)

Brandon Takayuki Hillier (HBA Candidate, Urban Studies) is the Managing Editor of The Toronto Urban Journal and is a fourth-year urban studies student at York University. He is also a part of the executive committee of The City Institute as the undergraduate representative. His work employs a political economy approach to questions of political space, territory and governance. Brandon intends on continuing his work at the graduate level and work toward a PhD.