Public Libraries as Engines of Democracy: A research and pedagogical case study on design for re-entry

Lara Penin, Eduardo Staszowski, John Bruce, Barbara Adams, Mariana Amatulllo


Founded with principles of equity, freedom and access, public libraries have always served as a cornerstone of democratic values and civic participation. In the context of 21st century transformational forces of globalization and digitization, libraries are also evolving their role from repositories of information and learning, to critical contributors of a culture of care in their communities. In this paper, we present insights from an ongoing collaboration with the Brooklyn Public Library that focused on the library’s current re-entry services directed to formerly incarcerated patrons and their families. Drawing from participatory design and visual ethnographic approaches to inquiry, this study contributes to our understanding of the relational dimensions of design and its role as a reflexive and caring practice.

Full Text: