A central feature of public librarianship in the United States is that librarians have worked to develop aclimate of openness by defining library policies to create an institution where all are welcome. In 1990 the American Library Association adopted the policy, “Library Services for the Poor,” in which it is stated , “it is crucial that libraries recognize their role in enabling poor people to participate fully in a democraticsociety, by utilizing a wide variety of available resources and strategies.” ( ALA Handbook of Organization , 1999-2000, policy 61). This policy was adopted because there had been a shifting level of emphasis in the interpretation of “openness” since the establishment of the public library. Open doors are very different from proactive service. In this chapter the socio-economic context of poverty isexplored to gain an understanding of the role librarians can play today to provide opportunity for poorpeople to participate in democracy. A brief review of key writing and documents that define publiclibrary service is provided to establish the historical foundation.
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