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Exploring Rural Public Library Assets for Asset-Based Community Development

Rural and Small Public Libraries: Challenges and Opportunities

ISBN: 978-1-78743-112-6, eISBN: 978-1-78743-111-9

Publication date: 10 November 2017


This chapter explores differences in fringe, distant, and remote rural public library assets for asset-based community development (ABCD) and the relationships of those assets to geographic regions, governance structures, and demographics.

The author analyzes 2013 data from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture using nonparametric statistics and data mining random forest supervised classification algorithms.

There are statistically significant differences between fringe, distant, and remote library assets. Unexpectedly, median per capita outlets (along with service hours and staff) increase as distances from urban areas increase. The Southeast region ranks high in unemployment and poverty and low in median household income, which aligns with the Southeast’s low median per capita library expenditures, staff, hours, inventory, and programs. However, the Southeast’s relatively high percentage of rural libraries with at least one staff member with a Master of Library and Information Science promises future asset growth in those libraries. State and federal contributions to Alaska libraries propelled the remote Far West to the number one ranking in median per capita staff, inventory, and programs.

This study is based on IMLS library system-wide data and does not include rural library branches operated by nonrural central libraries.

State and federal contributions to rural libraries increase economic, cultural, and social capital creation in the most remote communities. On a per capita basis, economic capital from state and federal agencies assists small, remote rural libraries in providing infrastructure and services that are more closely aligned with libraries in more populated areas and increases library assets available for ABCD initiatives in otherwise underserved communities.

Even the smallest rural library can contribute to ABCD initiatives by connecting their communities to outside resources and creating new economic, cultural, and social assets.

Analyzing rural public library assets within their geographic, political, and demographic contexts highlights their potential contributions to ABCD initiatives.



Miller, K. (2017), "Exploring Rural Public Library Assets for Asset-Based Community Development", Real, B. (Ed.) Rural and Small Public Libraries: Challenges and Opportunities (Advances in Librarianship, Vol. 43), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 61-96.



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