Library as place: evaluating physical and virtual spaces : a case study of two academic libraries

18 Mar 2022

Informed by Pierre Bourdieu’s theory on social capital, this paper examines how academic libraries might be considered places to create social capital. The study that directed this article utilised a qualitative approach and drew upon the perceptions of both the student population and library professionals at the University of Antwerp in Belgium and the University of Limpopo in South Africa. This study explored the similarities and differences in respondents’ perceptions of their respective libraries. The study relied on semi-structured interviews comprising 34 participants: 30 students and four library professionals. To inform this study, data were collected on the perceptions of the libraries’ physical and virtual spaces to ascertain differing views regarding academic libraries’ social values and their contribution to creating social capital. Students use the physical space extensively as a gathering place for group discussions and independent academic work, and depend on library professionals to disseminate information effectively on reliable and suitable platforms. The differences in students’ perceptions between the two academic libraries can be clarified based on their respective geographic settings, which influenced their perceptions and needs of the library. The article notes various restrictions at the University of Limpopo compared to current practices at the University of Antwerp in the context of social capital, physical space and technology, owing to uneven distribution of resources and autonomy.