chapter  1
7 Pages


The Comedia study was the first independent study of public libraries in Britain since the Second World War, and this book is largely the result of that detailed research, which was finalized in 1993. We wanted to look at public libraries in greater detail because, as outsiders, we regarded them as continuing to exhibit signs of considerable success: success in maintaining a wide cross-section of the population as regular users; success in continuing to keep abreast of new media forms - records, tapes, CDs, videos, open learning materials; success in steering a fine line between populist consumerism and elitist cultural exclusivity; success in maintaining a distinctive social and public space, and success too in maintaining particular and distinctive standards of public architecture when and where there were opportunities for new buildings. But, paradoxically, librarians saw things otherwise. They perceived continuing - and in some cases even terminal - crisis.