Social inclusion is high on the Government’s agenda but the role of public libraries in this area has not always been clearly defined. This paper first examines the issue of social exclusion, attempting to define the inclusive society. Drawing on recent work by the Library and Information Commission (2000), it then proposes that research conducted by the University of Central England – A Place for Children and The Value and Impact of Homework Clubs in Public Libraries – demonstrates the capacity of the public library service to combat the exclusion of the child from society, by enabling access to the adult world. The paper concludes that the public library service supports the educational, social and cultural development of all citizens, indeed that it is the essence of inclusion. Public libraries must therefore be integrated into the infrastructure for inclusion, and recommendations towards this end are made.
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