UCL Urban Laboratory


Stadtkolloquium: Public libraries and local radio

19 February 2015, 4:30 pm–6:00 pm


Event Information

Open to



Graham Wallas (AGWR) Room, 5th floor, LSE Old Building, London WC2A 2AE

February's Monthly Colloquia for Stadtkolloquium takes place on 19 February at LSE, with a focus on public libraries in Berlin and local radio in Abidjan.

Placing the public library: exploring the relationship between the public library and its locality - Katherine Robinson (LSE Sociology)

[…] In this area, around Pankstraße station, there's quite a strong alcoholic scene, and around the whole area, really; also at Leopoldplatz, there's always drinking and drug problems, and we have that here too. […] And so, sometimes these social problems seep in ['reinschwappen], because our toilet is used, or because it's cold and a little gang of youths are bored and don't know what to do with themselves, and so it's not always good, and it can create fear amongst different people, and understandably so, sometimes.

(Librarian, Wedding, April 2012)

Fundamental to my research is the ways in which the broader social context and urban location of the libraries influence the daily practices at work within them. In my work I examine how local contexts, to use this librarian's words, 'seep in' to the public library. Simultaneously, I demonstrate how the effects and relationships the library generates stretch out beyond its walls to create skeins of local ties and affiliations. This two-way relationship is a starting point for seeing the public library as a window onto place, a lens on contemporary life in two distinctive and diverse neighbourhoods in Berlin and London. The city neighbourhoods are not simply a backdrop to the research or its context; the libraries' locations in the city are written into my research.

Assembling and animating "proximity": small-scale broadcasting in Abidjan - Fabien Cante (LSE Media & Communications)

My research is framed by two overarching questions: What do we learn about urban life by looking at small-scale or "local" radio? How does the city, as a complex "communicative ecology" (Slater 2014), inform the way we understand such an apparently banal media object? Drawing on preliminary findings from fieldwork amongst "proximity radio" stations in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, I look at the way stations "assemble" this proximity on- and off air, drawing producers and listeners into a joint performance, or a space of interaction. I suggest that this performance rests largely on radio producers' capacity for "animation": animation, in French, refers to a versatile professional practice through which a multitude of actors, motivations and ingredients are drawn into the mix, and through which radio's activities are given meaning in the face of largely unrealistic missions (local "social cohesion") and overwhelming constraints (political and financial).