- The Development of Educational Services in American Public Libraries: An Overview
- No.15, p.107-119
For about a decade, there have been heated discussions on “lifelong education” in Japan, and the role of public libraries has also been taken up in this context. It seems to the writer of the present paper rather timely to think about the potentiality of public libraries to meet this educational needs. This paper discusses such potentiality and limitations by tracing experiences of American public libraries.
Looking back to the history of American public libraries, we find that the idea of “continuing or lifelong education for adults” was often used in a statement when public libraries were in the making in the United States. For example, we can definitely recognize that the concept of continuing education was already expressed in the 1852 Commitee Report of the Boston Public Library. While early public libraries did no more than collecting and providing important books for those who wished to educate themselves, later established ones had developed many services to encourage and stimulate them. Among these educational services, the most outstanding were readers’ advisory service, services for the educational programs of other organization and groups, and library-sponsored group programs which were developed as library adult education after 1920. They were integrated into adult services in 1950s, as many other educational services to promote and stimulate reading.
This paper reviews the development of these services along with some philosophies that support them, and refers briefly to the difference between education and service which led to the problem of the meaning of informal self-education. Libraries should have more extensive knowledge about the process of informal education and the role of librarians included in it, if public libraries are to be more useful institutions for implementing the philosophy of lifelong education.
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