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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: June 2018

3 - Equity of access

from Part 2 - Service themes of the modern public library



Rather than merely being described as a service theme, providing equity of access could also be defined as a core mission for public libraries and, as discussed in Chapter 2, is one of the key reasons why public libraries were formed in the first place. Equity of access is about all members of a community having the right to use the information and books that they need regardless of their ability to afford them or without undue influence or prejudice from others who may wish them not to have access.

The right for anyone of any race, creed or colour to access the collected knowledge of humankind is something that it is easy to take for granted, but ultimately that is the key role of the public library for its community. This is a key strand of the joint IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto, which states that ‘services of the public library are provided on the basis of equality of access for all, regardless of age, race, sex, religion, nationality, language or social status’ (IFLA, 2004).

Therefore, although all of the service themes we will discuss in the following chapters fit the notion of equity of access, this chapter will focus solely on:

  • ■ the broad notion of equity and freedom of access as a core mission of public libraries
  • ■ the professional challenges faced by the librarian in providing equity of access
  • ■ services aimed at specific user communities to facilitate equity of access.
  • Core values

    Librarians pride themselves on working in a profession that is happy to serve all library patrons, and defend their right to access materials. This is enshrined in the professional codes of many of the associations that represent librarians across the world (ALA, 1995; ALIA, 2005; CILIP, 2005).

    Writings on library values

    Over the years attempts have been made to provide a core set of values for the profession of librarianship, and the concept of providing equity of access features prominently.