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Community Library’s Role in Civic Involvement

The community library plays a vital role in empowering the community with regard to civic rights and democratic participation. Education reinforces the participation in democracy and civic life by triggering an informed decision making in the light of the power of consents (Seigel, 2003, p 17). Unfortunately, in many schools globally, civic education has not been grounded as core subjects but rather as additional non compulsory units. This allows room for press censorship and the emergence of tyrannical regimes in various states. Using a case study, we will explore the significance of librarianship in civic education and democratic activities.

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We take a case study of the Oregon Environmental Justice Task Force in Portland, Oregon. We will appreciate the impact of library services on civic and democratic participation. The visit was done on June 26, 2012, in a bid to carry out research on the relationship between library services and civil rights awareness in the organization (Ferguson, 2007, p10). Common indicators of the relationship are civil justice awareness, resource allocation satisfaction, education, health facility access, and environmental sustainability (Siegel, 2003, p2). Access to library services emerges to be a supportive factor since Portland City alone accommodates at least 20 fully functional public libraries apart from digital and internet libraries (Sen-Roy, 2001, p7). The libraries are evenly spread both within the city centers and the residential areas, which enhances accessibility.

A total of 100 people were interviewed in Portland in the program with an aim to determine the effects of library services on democratic awareness. Out of those interviewed, it was discovered that only 27 attend public libraries, 59 access either digital or internet libraries, whereas the remaining 14% remain paranoid about the services. A corresponding statistic showed that approximately 85.7% of the citizens are aware of their fundamental rights as stipulated in the constitution, are satisfied with resource allocation. It also revealed that approximately 87.2% participate in democratic processes such as voting, while the rest do not show interest. This indicates that the majority of those aware of library services participate in democratic processes while only a minute portion of those who are unaware of them are active.

The research carried out in the project successfully established that librarianship is relevant to Environmental justice and democratic participation (Siegel, 2003, p6). The representation of those who actively access library services is a symbol that reflects the awareness of environmental conflict resolution strategies (McCook, 2004,p35). It also reflects the implementation of civic environmentalism as well as a community-based strategy to reinforce sustainable democratic development (Putnam & Goss, 2002). The connection between librarianship and democracy manifests in the people’s activity in civic involvement. In this program, the statistics have exhibited a correlation between the two variable factors (Salvaris, 2002, p5).

In conclusion, this research has ascertained that library services have the power to strengthen democracy and community based civic engagements (Ferguson, 2007,p18). Community libraries motivate collaborations in civic, environmental activism by appending the element of civic awareness necessary for informed decision making (Gayton, 2007,p7). The community emphasis can now focus on various methodologies of enhancing library accessibility through technological advancements (McCook, 2006, p14).


Ferguson, S. (2007). Are public libraries developers of social capital? A review of their contribution and attempts to demonstrate it. Australia: Information Studies Centre, University of Canberra.

Gayton, J.(2007) Academic Libraries: Social or Communal? The Nature and Future of Academic Libraries. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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McCook, K. (2000). A Place at the Table: Participating in Community Building. Chicago: American Library Association.

McCook, K. (2006). A Digital Library to Serve a Region the Bioregion and First Nations Collections of the Southern Oregon Digital Archives. Florida: Library and Information Science, University of South Florida.

Putnam, R. & Goss, K. (2002.). Democracies in flux: The evolution of Social capital in contemporary society. New York: Oxford University Press.

Salvaris, M. (2002). Building Democratic Communities. Melbourne: VCOSS Social Policy Congress.

Sen-Roy, M. (2001).The Social Life of Digital Reference: What the Technology Affords. Ontario, Canada: Leddy Library, University of Windsor.

Siegel, L. (2003). Report on the Environmental Justice/Community Group Caucus. Portland, Oregon: Center for Public Environmental Oversight.

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