The More Things Change, the More Things Stay the Same: Institutional Maintenance in the Face of Social and Technological Change in American Public Libraries, 1876-2006
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Institutions are generally assumed to be stable, but recent research has focused on how that stability may be overturned to create institutional change. The assumption of stability has led to a lack of research on the flip side of change, maintenance, even though we cannot fully understand change without understanding the forces change agents work against. By examining more than a century of American public library discourse, I develop the construct of core ideas and a model of the maintenance of these institutions. Core ideas are those institutionalized ideas at the heart of a field that act as touchstones of a field's work and identity. Like other institutions, core ideas may be both added to and subtracted from a field and require maintenance through reinforcement and reinterpretation to endure. The model of maintenance of core ideas shows how core ideas are maintained in the face of social and technological change through use, as actors draw on core ideas to justify or deny accounts of practice, which reinforces, reinterprets, or undermines existing or proposed core ideas. In developing a model of maintenance I also examine how core ideas illuminate the internal workings of institutional logics and explore how the multivocality of core ideas allows and even supports multiple logics within a field.