This introduction presents an overview of key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book examines the views of library professionals, and the observations of writers and commentators from outside, but related to, the library world. As part of a modernization agenda, public libraries are required to satisfy a range of ambitious objectives. A survey by the Museums Libraries and Archives Council found just under a third of public library premises to be inadequate. The physical and psychological state of the public library service can be seen as symbolic of the condition of cultural institutions in general. The literature and agendas for professional meetings indicate that librarians are keen to attract more users to their service and want to make it more accessible. The book highlights librarians' views were obtained via the professional literature and through a questionnaire which was sent to senior practitioners and postgraduate students with a particular interest in public libraries.