The library as heterotopia: Michel Foucault and the experience of library space

Gary P. Radford, Marie L. Radford, Jessica Lingel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose – Using Michel Foucault’s notion of heterotopia as a guide, the purpose of this paper is to explore the implications of considering the library as place, and specifically as a place that has the “curious property of being in relation with all the other sites, but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invent the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror, or reflect” (Foucault, 1986a, p. 24). Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws upon a range of literary examples and from biographical accounts of authors such as Alan Bennett, Michel Foucault, and Umberto Eco to show how the library space operates as a heterotopia. Findings – The paper finds that drawing together the constructs of heterotopia and serendipity can enrich the understanding of how libraries are experienced as sites of play, creativity, and adventure. Originality/value – Foucault’s concept of heterotopia is offered as an original and useful frame that can account for the range of experiences and associations uniquely attached to the library.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)733-751
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Documentation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 13 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences


  • Heterotopia
  • Library
  • Michel foucault
  • Place
  • Space
  • Umberto eco


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