The role of the public reference library today is unclear. As a result there is a loss of purpose, staff are confused and collections are being weakened or broken up. Examines the history of the large urban reference libraries and the aims and motivations of their protagonists and early librarians. Concludes that many of these aims are still valid. The decline of the reference library coincides with the rise of information science, new service philosophies, and the weakening of public access to our printed heritage. Argues that there is a need to develop regional book and information centres, a need therefore for regional reference libraries.
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