Title

Families, public spaces, and occupation: Understanding what families do at the library

Location

Merritt Room

Start Time

2-10-2015 10:45 AM

End Time

2-10-2015 12:15 PM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

Within occupational science there has been growing interest in studying family occupation. A recent volume of the Journal of Occupational Science celebrated the 20th anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family and, as Humphry (2014) suggested, opened up a dialogue between the disciplines of occupational science and family studies. These papers highlighted family as a mode of action rather than a static construction, much in line with Morgan’s (2011) conceptualization of family practices. The purpose of this paper is to continue this dialogue and extend the conversation beyond the local to consider what families do in public spaces and the influence of political and economic policies and discourses. A secondary purpose is to consider methods of data collection and analysis that provide ways of viewing family occupation in their contextual fullness. Inspired by work of DeVault (2000), who highlighted the importance of exploring family practice beyond the home and the discourse of family life that “swirls” around those spaces – in her case, the zoo - this paper examines the public library as a space for family occupation. Public libraries were chosen because, compared to other public venues, they are a low cost option for family outings and are, in many American communities, a hub for activity.

This study combined ethnography and discourse analysis. The methods used to gather data for this study included observation and the collection of documents, library materials, and discourses about libraries. Observations took place at three different libraries, including two suburban libraries and one urban library. Eight visits were made to each library at different times of day over the course of four months. Observations took place in the children’s room in the library as unobtrusively as possible. Jottings were completed and more extensive field notes were written later. Maps of each library space were constructed. Web-sites, materials available at the library, and other public documents were collected and included in the analysis. Data analysis entailed careful reading of fieldnotes and documents, analytic memoing, open coding, and constructing narratives of each library.

The analysis illuminated how family occupations at the library were, to a large degree, dependent on those who produce the context. How spaces were set up, the library location in the community, and the discourses of these spaces had a profound impact on family occupation. The findings highlight the importance of viewing family occupations in connection to larger political and economic factors rather than a construction solely of members of the family. Findings lend support for adopting a transactional perspective (Cutchin & Dickie, 2012) and varied data gathering strategies when studying family occupation thereby connecting family occupation to larger political and economic issues.

Key words: family, occupation, libraries

Key Discussion Points

1. What methods are most useful for studying family occupation in public spaces?

2. How does grounding a study in a space rather than focusing on particular families add to the study of family occupation?

3. What other public spaces have discourses that “swirl” around them and what impact do they have on family occupation?

References

Cutchin, M.P. & Dickie, V. A.(2012). Transactionalism: Occupational science and the pragmatic attitude. In Gail E. Whiteford and Clare Hocking (Eds), Occupational Science: Society, Inclusion, Participation (pp. 23-37). Hobokon, NJ: Blackwell.

DeVault, M. L. (2000). Producing family time: Practices of leisure

activity beyond the home. Qualitative Sociology, 23, 485-503.

Humphry, R. (2014). Editorial: Special issue for the 20th anniversary of the UN international year of the family. Journal of Occupational Science, 21, 242 - 243.

Morgan, D. H. (2011). Rethinking Family Practices. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

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Oct 2nd, 10:45 AM Oct 2nd, 12:15 PM

Families, public spaces, and occupation: Understanding what families do at the library

Merritt Room

Within occupational science there has been growing interest in studying family occupation. A recent volume of the Journal of Occupational Science celebrated the 20th anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family and, as Humphry (2014) suggested, opened up a dialogue between the disciplines of occupational science and family studies. These papers highlighted family as a mode of action rather than a static construction, much in line with Morgan’s (2011) conceptualization of family practices. The purpose of this paper is to continue this dialogue and extend the conversation beyond the local to consider what families do in public spaces and the influence of political and economic policies and discourses. A secondary purpose is to consider methods of data collection and analysis that provide ways of viewing family occupation in their contextual fullness. Inspired by work of DeVault (2000), who highlighted the importance of exploring family practice beyond the home and the discourse of family life that “swirls” around those spaces – in her case, the zoo - this paper examines the public library as a space for family occupation. Public libraries were chosen because, compared to other public venues, they are a low cost option for family outings and are, in many American communities, a hub for activity.

This study combined ethnography and discourse analysis. The methods used to gather data for this study included observation and the collection of documents, library materials, and discourses about libraries. Observations took place at three different libraries, including two suburban libraries and one urban library. Eight visits were made to each library at different times of day over the course of four months. Observations took place in the children’s room in the library as unobtrusively as possible. Jottings were completed and more extensive field notes were written later. Maps of each library space were constructed. Web-sites, materials available at the library, and other public documents were collected and included in the analysis. Data analysis entailed careful reading of fieldnotes and documents, analytic memoing, open coding, and constructing narratives of each library.

The analysis illuminated how family occupations at the library were, to a large degree, dependent on those who produce the context. How spaces were set up, the library location in the community, and the discourses of these spaces had a profound impact on family occupation. The findings highlight the importance of viewing family occupations in connection to larger political and economic factors rather than a construction solely of members of the family. Findings lend support for adopting a transactional perspective (Cutchin & Dickie, 2012) and varied data gathering strategies when studying family occupation thereby connecting family occupation to larger political and economic issues.

Key words: family, occupation, libraries

Key Discussion Points

1. What methods are most useful for studying family occupation in public spaces?

2. How does grounding a study in a space rather than focusing on particular families add to the study of family occupation?

3. What other public spaces have discourses that “swirl” around them and what impact do they have on family occupation?