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Demographic Trends and Social Structure

By Lowell A. Martin


AT THE OUTSET, before dealing specifically with trends and structures, it will be helpful to look critically at some of the prevailing assumptions concerning the relations between libraries and society. Librarians like to say that their agency reflects the social milieu. The common claim is that of response to economic, technological, cultural and educational trends. It is even asserted on occasion that libraries not only follow but create social deve1oprnents.l To a degree all this is true. There is no doubt that libraries are conditioned by the larger society. Economic productivity provides public wealth that libraries may (or may not) share. Increasing specialization leads to greater dependence on information, which libraries may (or may not) supply. Governmental concern for persons of limited educational background may (or may not) prompt modifications of service programs. Dominant cultural values may (or may not) enhance or depress both library use and the general image of the institution. The larger context sets parameters-limits and opportunities-outside of which the library as a derivative agency cannot function. But within these limits libraries do not necessarily follow dominant interests or reflect shifting social tendencies. The analytical observer cannot but note the limited change in libraries-that is, basic change in concept, function and emphasis-over a century that has witnessed fundamental alteration in technological applications, social organization and group values. The library is hardly a mirror image of its milieu. O

Year: 2011
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