There and back again: Reimagining the public library for the twenty-first century

Mary Carroll, Sue Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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The redefining of the scope and function of the public library in the twenty-first century, and reconstruction of the virtual and physical space it occupies, appear to have taken public libraries on a journey to “there and back again.” In some of the debates surrounding contemporary challenges, we can discern echoes from previous generations as they too debated the primary role of the public library in the community, the nature and purpose of services and resources provided, and the best way to meet community needs. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, many of the solutions reached by twenty-first century libraries have much in common with the solutions of previous generations. Reflecting early public library activities, today’s responses include the introduction of nonstandard classification schemes; the expansion of programs to enhance recreational and educational pursuits; the integration of multiple community services within the library; and provision of a variety of community learning, creative, and recreational spaces. Using the development of public libraries in Australia as a case study, and a critical narrative approach, this paper will argue that the vision for the function and purpose of the public library in the twenty-first century is not a new one but, perhaps unconsciously, a return to historical foundations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-595
Number of pages15
JournalLibrary Trends
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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