UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

Marginal scenes and the changing face of the urban public library : The Vancouver Downtown Eastside’s Carnegie Mickiewicz, Paulina


Through an analysis of one of North America’s earliest Carnegie libraries, located in Vancouver, the aim of this article is to question increasingly antiquated discourses of the urban public library as a static cultural institution in order to ascertain how contemporary urban libraries are both representative and generative media institutions that are increasingly central to marginalized urban communities. Marginalized communities, such as those living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, are often overlooked as contributing to the cultural fabric of a city. The Carnegie Library is a site in which precarious, often pre-defined publics, whose members already suffer from established forms of discrimination and exclusion, come together to form a new iteration of the scene (Straw, 2004). I will argue that marginalization, when integrated into a semi-public space and institution such as the Carnegie Community Centre, creates a generative scene that holds the potential of fostering nascent forms of both cultural and political association and education amongst marginalized groups themselves. As a result, the contemporary urban public library emerges as a responsive medium of communication in its own right that is shaped by its siting across distinct urban environments.

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