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"The Politics of Public Library Fiction Provision: Locating Theories of Literature." C. Munro. I. Ruthven. Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde. 2015. Download PDF (BibTeX)

The "Great Fiction Question" described a debate surrounding our earliest public libraries' provision of works of fiction and their discrimination between those works. However, such a 'Question' has provided a recurrent source of dispute, with commentators continuing to debate the positioning and specifics of fiction lending into the twenty-first century.

It is clear that contemporary critics' positions on the matter are informed by their conceptions of the public library's values and purposes, and of the nature of the construction, production and capacities of fictive texts, as well as those texts' complex productive relationships with their readers. The primary aim of this research then, is to interrogate, as theories of literature, contemporary views on public library fiction provision, and to investigate the extent to which these often vociferous cases for particular approaches - and indeed, the philosophies of public librarianship that these approaches form parts of - may be critically vulnerable at the level of the theories (or assumptions) of literature that ostensibly fortify them.

This reading of the contemporary debate draws upon materialist commitments in literary and cultural studies, and reveals a measure of unstated agreement between adversaries in the form of shared subscriptions to traditional notions of literary hierarchy and the nature of aesthetic and quality-based distinctions that can be made between texts. It is suggested that where present, public librarians and critics dismantle such notions in aid of inclusive and critically engaged selection practices.