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ACADEMIC LIBRARIES: THE ROLE OF

Information and Referral in the Academic Library: Lessons Attitude and Service from the Public Library

Libraries, social institutions that they are, tend to mirror the prevailing attitudes and ideas at a given time, in a given society. Appropriate to its time, the spirit of information and referral emerged in the public library against a backdrop of social activism and social consciousness that so characterized the American community during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Subject, in part, to these "whims of the community it serves" (Katz, 1982, p. 3), the reaction on the part of the public library was to have an "identity crisis." A motivating factor in this self-analysis was the desire on the part of the public library to be more vital and more relevant to those with information needs. The idea of making the public library, "a switching center that would link an individual, whatever his need, with an appropriate resource" (Childers, 1983, p. 1), seemed to offer a means to this end.