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Title: Public libraries adapting to change : from cultural institutions to agents of change in learning & community development
Author: McKrell, Lindsay
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis is an examination of public libraries in Britain today. It sets forward the hypothesis that a new type of librarianship is emerging to meet the needs of change in the socioeconomic environment, and that this is based on a community development approach. The thesis examines the role of public libraries within their communities through a historical, contemporary and international review of literature and a national questionnaire survey of community development strategies in public library authorities. The survey forms part of a research programme funded by the British Library Research and Innovation Centre on the social impact of libraries. It was designed collaboratively, by myself, Andrew Green of the Community Services Group of the Library Association and Kevin Harris of the Community Development Foundation, although all subsequent work has been my own. In-depth analysis is followed by telephone interviews with four library authorities chosen as case studies, to establish the relationship between policy and practice. The thesis as a whole considers the history and development of libraries. After suffering years of policy drift, a poor research base and a low public profile, public libraries are considering how best to quantify their social impact. Rapid socioeconomic change has had a marked effect on the labour market and social cohesion in the UK, resulting in greater demand for training, education and information. Government has responded with community-oriented policies aimed at improving public access to the information society, making local government more accountable, empowering communities and supporting citizenship in an increasingly active democracy. Rapid advances in Information Technology have increased the potential of public libraries to contribute to this process and act as lifelong learning facilitators and providers. This thesis presents evidence of public libraries' changing role as an educative medium. A majority of public libraries responding to the survey are engaged in interagency work to support the independent learner and empower communities. Many are doing so as part of a community development strategy, or are working on such a strategy. Respondents to the survey of public library authorities expressed the desire to involve their public in a meaningful way. Those library services with a written community development strategy have taken practical steps to achieve this and have set up systems to monitor their progress. A new model for management of community-oriented services is proposed, highlighting issues of policy and practice such as staff training and service accessibility. Conclusions are drawn on an effective role for public libraries in Britain and the need for further research on how this can be achieved.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available