Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This ethnographic field study gathered evidence about the use of public libraries by preschool girls. Thirty girls within three months of their fourth birthdays were tape-recorded and observed during one of their usual visits to their local public libraries with their mothers. During the week following the visits, mothers maintained diaries where they reported incidents involving their daughters' use of library materials and other library-related activities. Follow-up interviews were conducted with mothers to verify and find out more about the behaviour observed during the library visits and reported in the diaries. Visit, diary and interview transcripts and field notes were analyzed and coded for general themes. Vygotsky's developmental theory provided a conceptual framework for the analysis of the context in which learning opportunities arose through the use of library services and materials.;During their library visits, the children participated in activities such as: return and check out of library materials; selection of library materials, including catalogue searches, reader's advisory and reference activities; use of library materials, including shared reading and independent perusal; play; social interaction with others; and library programs. In the week following their library visits the children did the following: talked about libraries; made one or more additional library visits; played library; used the library materials they had borrowed for shared reading, independent perusal, and for sources of the content of their play and topics of conversation with others. Both at the library and at home, the library collections, especially stories, were the focus of most activities observed in the study.;The use of library services and collections provided many learning opportunities, particularly for learning how libraries work and for acquiring emergent literacy skills. Mothers acted as key players in their daughters' use of public libraries, scaffolding their learning within Vygotsky's zone of proximal development.;The results of this research indicate that public libraries can make an important contribution to the development of reading in young children through the provision of materials. Recommendations are made for improving services to support this learning, more effectively.



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