The odyssey of flemish public libraries facing opportunities and threats when becoming strategic partners in urban development
Faculty of Applied Economics
Faculty of Design Sciences
University of Antwerp
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the interaction between the local policy context and the strategic role of public libraries within urban networks or partnerships aiming for the future development and innovation of cities. Design/methodology/approach An explorative case-study design in ten Flemish public libraries (i.e. Kortrijk, Sint-Niklaas, Turnhout, Geel, Maaseik, Dendermonde, Knokke-Heist, Hemiksem-Schelle, Balen and Boortmeerbeek-Haacht). Findings The findings are twofold. On the one hand the research results identify three categories of emerging threats and opportunities being (i) the strategic dilemmas between local policy priorities, (ii) the trends in policy frameworks, and (iii) the bottlenecks in needed methods and competences of local policy actors . On the other hand the research results also uncover three public library strategies to cope with these challenges, being (i) the professionalization of their own strategic management profile, (ii) the exploration and mapping of the others, and (iii) the initiatives taken to actively craft and design the strategic partnership themselves. Practical implications This paper provides unique and interesting insights on how the changing local policy context in Flanders prevents (threats) and stimulates (opportunites) the formation, development and acknowledgment of strategic partnerships of public libraries, and on how the public libraries involved encounter these challenges. Originality/value It is the only study in Flanders providing empirical information on the interaction between the changing local policy context and the strategic partnerships of public libraries.