Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Article #1 Community Information Centers

Joseph C. Donohue and Manfred Kochen, "Community information centers: Concepts for analysis and planning," in Manfred Kochen and Joseph C. Donohue, eds., Information for the community (Chicago: American Library Association, 1976), 7-18

The authors begin by outlining and explaining the “information gap” became more pronounced do to the growing complexity of societies, particularly in urban areas, and the changing nature of traditional social patterns. This led to a call to action by several educated idealists, who were trying to make sure that justice was for everyone. Many of these ventures, as well as dire predictions, did not come to pass, but the necessity of providing more information in communities was clear.

As the number of information centers began to rise, so did a need for classifying information services. The main examples provided are classifications by client group or support group, which may overlap. Furthermore, there may be difficulties in how an information service is run, or run by, such as those that are part of the “establishment” and those that are run by volunteers. Numerous information centers were opened in public libraries in the early 1970s.

The remainder of the article outlines concerns in developing an information agency that is trying to extend services to a wide population. Impediments are listed, as well as possible solutions. When developing an information agency, the organizers must also address their own motivations, needs, structural viability, how “radical” the agency should be, and the environment, or location of the service. Public libraries are a good location for an information center, as they are usually supported by tax dollars, but run by semi-independent trustees. The authors close with a short discussion on the ethics of information services and the necessity of community involvement. They seem to believe that all information should be provided, leaving the client to make his or her own judgment.


  1. I thought this quote was noteworthy: "If the library is to be successful as an information center, it must espouse the broader interpretation of its role". It's easy to see that libraries have changed their roles since this article was published. Although I don't know if providing an hour or two of Internet access and offering occasional Basic Computer courses really provide the kind of general cultural literacy that the authors are aiming for. Computers are an integral part of everyday life but they still seem like an afterthought at libraries.

    Which makes the next sentence in the article a bit ironic: "It (the library) must not stop with information found in recorded form". I would make the argument that even today, libraries' primary concern still tend to be collection development, and collections are still dominated by printed books. Anachronistic, maybe?

  2. I thought it was interesting how this article framed the discussion of information centers against the backdrop of the cultural revolution of the 1960's, using language such as 'soul searching', 'establishment', and 'counterculture' to describe issues in the recent history of the article.