Like so many other public institutions, libraries are struggling to adapt to the changes in materials, techniques, and clientele wrought by urbanization and advancing technology. As service institutions, they must meet the needs created by new social, political, and economic conditions. As public organizations, they face an increasingly diverse clientele—older people come to the library for self-improvement, adult education, or cultural stimulation; students rely on its reference works to supplement the collections of school libraries; educators attempt to use its resources to reach the culturally deprived; business require complicated reference and information storage and retrieval services; and the general reader seeks a place for browsing and light reading.
Essays in this volume by librarians, educators, social scientists, urban planners, and communications experts attempt to describe the many and varied developmental problems facing public libraries in metropolitan areas of the United States. The essays contain information about the financial, political, demographic, cultural, and educational influences shaping the role of the public library in our society. Even though The Metropolitan Library cannot, by the very nature of the questions it raises, provide solutions to the problems it describes, it is nonetheless a thought-stimulating work that provides many reference points for further research.
The book will be useful to the librarian, the administrator, and the library student. In addition, discussions of contemporary urban problems will be of value to the sociologist, political scientist, city planner, and anyone concerned with the future of cities and the role of the library in them.
The volume opens with two introductory essays by the volume editors. The first, “The Urban Public Library: A Perspective,” by Kathleen Molz, traces the growth of public libraries from the founding of the Public Library of the City of Boston in 1852 to the present. The next article, by Ralph W. Conant, “The Metropolitan Library and the Educational Revolution: Some Implications for Research,” pinpoints critical areas where research is needed. Philip Ennis, Dan Lacy, John E. Bebout, Edward C. Banfield, and Jesse H. Shera discuss “The Functions of the Public Library.” John E. Bebout and David Popenoe, Robert H. Salisbury, William F. Hellmuth, Lowell Martin, Claire K. Lipsman, Lester L. Stoffel, and Norman Elkin focus on the specific problems of urban libraries in the section entitled “The Public Library in the Metropolis.” “Critical Issues”—including the education of librarians, the role of technology in library development, the potential of telecommunications, and the burgeoning of nonprint materials—are considered by D. J. Foskett, John Tebbel, John Bystrom, and Kathleen Molz. The volume concludes with an annotated bibliography of works on metropolitan area library problems compiled by Leonard Grundt.