Public Library Services in Rural Australia: Challenges and Prospects

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Abstract

This article reports the findings of a survey of more than 100 Australian outer regional and remote public library managers. Public libraries in these areas serve more than 2.5 million Australians, representing an important yet under-researched topic. Using an online questionnaire, with a response rate of more than 40%, we asked public library managers in rural Australia about the services provided by both fixed-site and mobile libraries (where applicable), as well as online and other outreach services. Questions also covered the value, issues and challenges of respondents’ library services. Findings suggest that while rural libraries perform some similar functions to their more urban counterparts, and share some challenges, they are especially valued by their communities in the absence of alternative services and social outlets, making the library even more of a key facilitator, potentially, of social inclusion and community interaction. Respondents also noted an increasing demand for IT services and digital literacy support among their users, a need sometimes at odds with the challenge these libraries face maintaining up-to-date technical infrastructure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-147
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of the Australian Library and Information Association
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Feb 2024

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