Public Libraries in the New Economy: Twenty-First-Century Skills, the Internet, and Community Needs

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Great Recession, recession impact on public libraries, demand for services, services demand, research effect on library policy

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This article examines the Internet-related responses of public libraries to the sustained economic downturn of recent years. Following a discussion of the changes to the economy and the expected skills for employment that have resulted from the advent of the Internet, this article presents the services that libraries are providing to help patrons transition to this new economy. Drawn from the findings of the 2011–2012 Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study (PLFTAS) survey and site visits to public libraries, the data demonstrate the changes in job skills and employment-seeking services since the beginning of the ongoing prolonged economic downturn and the breadth and depth of the electronic information services that libraries currently provide to users. Designed to meet the needs of the local communities that libraries serve, these services rely on the capacities of the Internet, public access technologies, and Internet-enabled services provided by the library. This article concludes with a discussion of the ways in which this research can inform broader explorations of the relationships between libraries, the Internet, the new economy, and twenty-first-century skills.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Public Library Quarterly, v. 31, issue 3, p. 191-291