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Public Libraries and the Internet: Roles, Perspectives, and Implications

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The integration of technology into public library services has been a continual process across the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, in which libraries have responded to new technologies, altering the ways that information could be recorded, accessed, and used. The Internet is a prominent recent example, but it is part of a larger continuity in public library history in the United States. In order to frame the explorations of the Internet and related technologies in public libraries today, this chapter briefly considers the historical relationships between public libraries and information technologies, how these relationships have shaped the maturation of public libraries, and the new roles in communities that have been created for libraries through increased provision of information technology.

Public Libraries and the Internet: Roles, Perspectives, and Implications explores the impact of the Internet and the expansion of the networked environment on U.S. public libraries through more than a dozen essays written by leading scholars and administrators. Notwithstanding the far-reaching changes wrought by the Internet, this is the first attempt to provide a comprehensive exploration of the subject over time and across areas of practice.

This wide-ranging volume, edited by the authors of several national studies tracking the use and involvement of public libraries with the Internet since 1994, offers both description and assessment. It discusses the ways in which the roles and services of public libraries have changed as a result of the Internet and offers a perspective on the meaning and impact of these changes. Perhaps most critically, it also suggests possible futures and opportunities as public libraries continue to evolve in this networked environment.

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