Impacts of information technology on a local institution : transition of the public library in local communities


Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 1999.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 195-206).Innovations in information technology in the 1990's have impacted society in many ways. Discussions about the implications for society have taken place from various points of view. In urban planning, the discussion has focused on the significance of physical communities in the information technology (IT) society. However, there have been few discussions about the use of information technology at local institutions, particularly focusing on information access and distribution. Public libraries, which are among the most common public institutions found in local communities, once enjoyed popularity and an important position in local governments. However, more recently, these institutions have been regarded more or less as wallflowers by their local communities. Furthermore, the public library faces a paradox in the information age. Information has never been so important as it is now, and public libraries are supposed to be community resources for information. Yet, the public library remains at the margin of the IT society. Moreover networked information even calls into question the significance of the physical space of libraries. Still, there is community demand for information access and community space, which suggests potential needs to be fulfilled by public libraries. This thesis spotlights the impacts of information technology on the transformation of local institutions, and focuses on the public library as an example. It examines the potential roles of the public library from the view points of communities and local governments by focusing on the extension of its historical roles and new social needs in the IT society. The thesis consists of three parts: Chapter 1 examines the contexts of public libraries in the information society, Chapter 2 analyzes a case in Union City, New Jersey, and Chapter 3 suggests future plans and extends lessons to other institutions. The Union City case study demonstrates the possible important roles that public libraries could play according to local community needs in the IT society. After the countrywide initiative that created the Information Highway, it is time for local communities to promote locally tailored "Information Main Streets" reflecting community priorities. These would encompass the local economy, education, social issues and other community issues. The study suggests the need for local governments' active involvement in planning the local public Akemi Yao.M.C.P

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