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Exhibiting America: Moving Image Archives and Rural or Small Libraries

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 presents a historical analysis of how rural and small libraries have traditionally used nontheatrical film, including a discussion of how bookmobiles presented these materials to persons in broader service areas. After establishing the entertainment and educational benefits patrons historically received from the screening of these materials, the author transitions to discuss how recently established regional film archives and other organizations have made significant strides in recent years in preserving motion pictures that document local and regional culture. The chapter concludes with an analysis of how rural and small libraries can work with regional motion picture archives to design screenings and other programs that fulfill traditional roles of entertaining and educating patrons while also reaffirming local cultural identity.

Summative research and archival sources provide the foundations for the discussion of the role and purpose of film in rural and small libraries. Specific libraries and collections serve as case studies.

  • Small-gauge motion pictures were popular with rural library and bookmobile patrons during the first three-quarters of the twentieth century, bringing entertainment and information to persons who normally had limited options in these areas due to geographic barriers.

  • Regional film archives and nontheatrical film advocacy organizations have emerged during recent decades, collecting previously overlooked materials that can help reaffirm local and regional culture.

  • Several regional film archives have already collaborated with rural and small libraries as well as other local institutions, providing a roadmap for libraries that wish to expand their cultural-heritage-oriented ­programming.

Numerous scholars have published studies on regional and local nontheatrical film in recent decades, but relatively little has been written to connect these films with their value to rural public libraries and their constituents. By beginning with a historical analysis of how films have traditionally been of value to these audiences, the author is able to transition to presenting ideas on how nontheatrical works can continue to be of value in rural contexts. This has practical applications for rural libraries and other rural cultural organizations throughout the United States.



Jenkins, J.L. (2017), "Exhibiting America: Moving Image Archives and Rural or Small Libraries", Real, B. (Ed.) Rural and Small Public Libraries: Challenges and Opportunities (Advances in Librarianship, Vol. 43), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 181-201.



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