Public libraries in the "age of austerity": income generation and public library ethos

Hartwig Pautz, Alan Poulter

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A UK-wide survey was conducted using questionaires and interviews into the ethical and professional issues that public librarians faced when considering paid versus free access to services. The budgets of Britain’s public services have been under sustained pressure and public libraries are no exception to public spending cuts in today’s “age of austerity”. Librarians increasingly try to supplement shrinking budgets by employing a variety of income generation methods. But are these methods always in line with the public library ethos? This article presents data showing what British librarians hold to be the public library ethos, what they undertake to generate extra income to maintain public library services and whether they think that their efforts to generate additional income are ever in contradiction to the public library ethos. The article is based on survey and interview data produced in 2013 and also provides, in a Supplementary File, a comprehensive list of income generation methods. The research methods only allowed for the production of non-generalisable data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-36
Number of pages17
JournalLibrary and Information Research
Issue number117
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • public libraries
  • professional ethics
  • public funding
  • spending cuts
  • income generation

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