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The nature and role of empathy in public librarianship

Birdi, B., Wilson, K. and Tso, H.M. (2009) The nature and role of empathy in public librarianship. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 41 (2). pp. 81-89. ISSN 0961-0006

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This article presents two recent studies, an AHRC-funded exploration of the role of empathy in community librarianship (Study 1) and an investigation of the role of empathy in service to minority ethnic users (Study 2). Qualitative elements of each methodology are presented, namely a series of focus groups with frontline staff, interviews with senior managers and a research workshop (Study 1), and a case study investigation of a public library in the heart of a Chinese community (Study 2). Synthesizing the data of both studies, an analysis is conducted of the relationship between the cultural identities of library staff and their ability to empathize with the public. It is concluded that empathy plays a role in facilitating effective communication between staff and users, but that a distinction should be made between intuitive and cognitive empathy, in considering the potential of staff training to develop appropriate levels of emotional response to members of all communities.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 2009 Sage. This is an author produced version of a paper subsequently published in Journal of Librarianship and Information Science. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Keywords: empathy; ethnicity; public library/public librarian; training
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Information School (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Miss Anthea Tucker
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2010 08:49
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 17:00
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0961000609102827
Status: Published
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Identification Number: 10.1177/0961000609102827
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10968

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