Social responsibility in the global village: What role for public and school libraries?


  • James Henri
  • Sandra Lee



In our global village dominated by economic rationalism does the public library have a social conscience? Issues given prominence by Patricia Glass Schuman's Social Responsibilities and Libraries, published in 1976 were revisited. As an area of larger community structure and debates of public good, the perennial topic of interest is fast becoming the current hot topic of librarianship. Literacy and learning have long been critical areas where librarians focus service, skills and programming in public libraries. This research project seeks to examine how librarians perceive other issues that often go hand-in-hand with literacy to help individuals and society achieve full potential. The research in this presentation and paper is part of a coauthored book that primarily examined politics and the public library discussing issues given new flavour in a post 9/11 world, economic rationalism and social responsibility, public Library as Social Space, engaging the poor and those marginalized because of access limitations. Freedom of information and privacy are perennial issues for libraries. It is clear that literacy continues to be a key issue for public libraries. Researchers analyzed responses received from open-ended questions on library professional listservs and present findings that indicate what librarians perceive as the role of public libraries to further socially responsible policy. They provide some insight into the most compelling issues for librarians, and what changes in librarian's/library roles have been perceived since 9/11. The findings from the study are also presented in the context of the impact it bears for school libraries, outlining further studies in that area.