Vacature: PhD Candidate: Ethnographic Research on Public Libraries as Social Infrastructures

  • Employment: 1.0 FTE
  • Gross monthly salary: € 2,443 – € 3,122
  • Nijmegen School of Management
  • Required background: Research University Degree
  • Application deadline: 20 February 2022
  • Apply

As a PhD candidate, you will contribute to international, qualitative research on the formal and informal practices (or ‘infrastructuring’) that library staff, patrons, policy-makers and other stakeholders employ to provide, perform and maintain public libraries as important sociocultural infrastructures. The research particularly focuses on libraries in urban communities that struggle with systemic challenges such as unemployment and segregation.

This PhD research is part of the European JPI Urban Europe ENUTC-funded project entitled “Infrastructuring Libraries in Transformation” (ILIT). It will be executed by a consortium of academic partners in the Netherlands, Sweden (Lund University) and Austria (University of Vienna) and non-academic project partners including the European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation Association (EBLIDA) and local and regional libraries and library networks.  

The research evolves around three interrelated questions: 1) How do national, regional and local policies envision and fund libraries as sociocultural infrastructures? 2) How do libraries engage diverse local communities with the goal of advancing library innovation and transformation as an urban infrastructure? 3) How do librarians provide, practise and perform the infrastructuring of libraries?

Your task will be to contribute to the project’s research goals to enhance the institutional support of libraries as sociocultural infrastructures, strengthen the capacities of libraries as local places of community and care, and amplify community librarianship as innovation driver towards community-based urban development.

You will be responsible for conducting (mainly qualitative) research on a Dutch library network using a mix of ethnographic and creative approaches, including but not limited to stakeholder and critical policy analysis, semi-structured interviews, participant observation, shadowing and co-productive zine making. You will investigate two ‘cases’ within this library network: the central library and a library located in a diverse neighbourhood with pressing systemic challenges. You will write and co-author scientific articles and complete a PhD dissertation within four years. Furthermore you will participate in conferences, workshops, seminars and other scholarly activities, and contribute to the teaching programme of the department of Geography, Planning and Environment (about 10% of your contract).


  • You hold a Master’s degree in human geography, urban studies, sociology, political science, anthropology, library studies, humanities, or a related field.
  • You have proven interests in and knowledge of theories on public space, social infrastructure, social inclusion and/or diversity, and practice theory.
  • You preferably have an affinity for public libraries.
  • You have relevant empirical research experience, including experience with doing fieldwork, ethnography or any other relevant qualitative methodology.
  • You have an excellent command of written and spoken English, as evidenced by a writing sample.
  • You are proficient in Dutch (so that you will be able to conduct empirical research in the Netherlands).
  • You have a proactive behaviour, and ethics of team work, solidarity and intercultural openness, and good skills in project planning.

We are

The Nijmegen School of Management is an academic centre of research and higher learning. It has seven focus areas: Business Administration, Public Administration, Political Science, Economics, Social and Political Sciences of the Environment, Human Geography, and Spatial Planning. NSM strives for a multidisciplinary approach whenever possible.  Altogether, NSM employs 350 FTEs, 75% of whom are academics.

Both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes are offered in the seven focus areas, which are organised in NSM’s educational institute. The educational programme is characterised by small-scale teaching and provides a stimulating learning environment with an emphasis on the development of academic skills. NSM currently has approximately 5,000 students. NSM’s research activities fall under the responsibility of the interdisciplinary Institute for Management Research (IMR). Under the motto ‘Responsible Governance for Sustainable Societies’, our researchers carry out state-of-the-art research into complex problems of governance and management, in order to explain the causes of these problems, and to use that knowledge to create potential solutions. They combine knowledge and expertise from multiple disciplines with collaboration with relevant societal actors.

Radboud University
We want to get the best out of science, others and ourselves. Why? Because this is what the world around us desperately needs. Leading research and education make an indispensable contribution to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. This is what unites the more than 24,000 students and 5,600 employees at Radboud University. And this requires even more talent, collaboration and lifelong learning. You have a part to play!

We offer

  • Employment for 1.0 FTE.
  • The gross starting salary amounts to €2,443 per month based on a 38-hour working week, and will increase to €3,122 in the fourth year (salary scale P).
  • You will be employed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract).
  • You will receive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Care Services. Our Dual Career and Family Care Officer can assist you with family-related support, help your partner or spouse prepare for the local labour market, provide customized support in their search for employment  and help your family settle in Nijmegen.
  • Working for us means getting extra days off. In case of full-time employment, you can choose between 29 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the legally allotted 20.

Additional employment conditions

Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University’s primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.

Would you like more information?

For questions about the position, please contact Dr Rianne van Melik, Associate professor at +31 6 25 04 16 39 or Alternatively, you can contact Dr Friederike Landau-Donnelly, Assistant professor at

Practical information and applications

You can apply until 20 Februari 2022, exclusively using the button below. Kindly address your application to Dr Rianne van Melik. Please fill in the application form and attach the following documents:

  • A letter of motivation.
  • Your CV.
  • A writing sample, such as a chapter from your Master’s thesis or a published paper (in PDF, not more than 25 pages).

The first round of interviews will take place on Monday 7 March. You would preferably begin employment on 1 April 2022. Apply

If you are invited for an interview, you will be asked to write a short research statement (max. 1A4) in which you provide your initial ideas about the research project. In that stage, we will share more details of the research project.

We can imagine you’re curious about our application procedure. It offers a rough outline of what you can expect during the application process, how we handle your personal data and how we deal with internal and external candidates.

We drafted this vacancy to find and hire our new colleague ourselves. Recruitment agencies are kindly requested to refrain from responding.


We drafted this vacancy to find and hire our new colleague ourselves. Recruitment agencies are kindly requested to refrain from responding.

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