chapter  10
11 Pages

The invisible web: the public library and social policy

Public libraries enshrine the principle of "the right to know" - the right to literacy and the right of access to knowledge. This is not just an intellectual right but a social right as well. It is this principle that helps to make public libraries archetypal buildings and places within British civil society.1 The right to literacy and to a shared cultural heritage is a clear social principle that is embedded in and supported throughout our society. Indeed, it is the strength and clarity of this ideal that has paradoxically allowed public libraries to be flexible institutions. They have evolved and adapted to meet the needs of people and places. The libraries in Birmingham city centre and in a Lewisham neighbourhood area, for example, are both clearly identifiable as public libraries, and yet each responds to the particular requirements of its location in adaptable and responsive ways.