Threshold fear

Threshold fear is a term used in the professional literature on libraries and information technology sciences and means the psychological obstacle that hinders people to reach the library and/or books. It is a symbolic picture authentically expressing the anxiety possibly provoked by an unknown thing. Namely, it refers to a situation when we do not dare to make the step that, in our case, would lead us to the library [or any other community space]. We are not familiar with the rules, we do not have behavioural patterns and there is no scenario in our mind about what and how we should do in such a community space.[1]

Root-causes of its development

There can be many different reasons behind the development of threshold fear, and you find below some examples:

  • The given community scene evokes the impression of an excessively elite institution. For example, a person who is a manual worker or has low income feels that a given space is primarily dedicated to intellectuals and high-status persons and he/she might be looked out of that place (restaurant, yacht club).
  • The community space in question is not independent enough, meaning that the persons staying at that place have common values, follow activity patterns that can be learnt and adapted only with great difficulties by an outsider and are thus inconvenient. For example, communities organised on religious or political basis can be such spaces.
  • We associate participation at the given community scene with the existence of such skills that we do not possess. For example, venues dedicated to sports and leisure-time activities (gym, wall-climbing club, squash, etc.).

Low-threshold spaces may become independent meeting points, where people with different backgrounds, values and social status can meet spontaneously. These meeting can contribute to knowing each other better, dismantling prejudices, strengthening confidence and increasing social solidarity. Low-threshold spaces are suitable to confront our opinions, set of values and vision about the world with the set of values, opinions and views about the world of people having different social background. Low-threshold spaces present us with the feeling of belonging to a community.


[1] Péterfi Rita: Olvasóközpontú olvasásfejlesztés = Könyvtári figyelő, 2007. (53. évf.)

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