Local public libraries as human rights intermediaries

  • Glušac L
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Traditionally, the literature has recognised the role of public libraries in the promotion of human rights, through their efforts in making information accessible to anyone, irrespective of their personal circumstances. At the same time, scholars have largely overlooked their potential in the protection of human rights. This article shows that libraries can make an important contribution to the protection function, by using the example of cooperation between the National Ombudsman of Serbia and 15 local public libraries in smaller municipalities. The research is framed within the Orchestration theory, recently developed by Abbott and others. We demonstrate that the relationship between the Ombudsman and local libraries can successfully be analysed with O-I-T framework, where the Ombudsman (Orchestrator) enlists local libraries (Intermediary) to become more accessible to citizens (Target), providing them with an easier way to communicate their human rights concerns and lodge a complaint with this key human rights remedy mechanism, by using the video communication software installed in local libraries. The results of this research could serve to inspire similar studies exploring the application of the Orchestration theory on the complex multi-actor human rights dynamics from a global perspective to national and local environments. While this research was inspired by the Serbian experience, its key policy implication is that innovative cooperation between a national human rights institution (NHRI) and local libraries is perfectly applicable to other states as well. The design of the project implemented in Serbia can be copied successfully worldwide, as it is not based on complicated infrastructural or institutional changes, but on creative and cost-effective idea.




Glušac, L. (2018). Local public libraries as human rights intermediaries. Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, 36(2), 133–151. https://doi.org/10.1177/0924051918772968

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