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Services Of Medium-Sized Public Libraries

Graduate School of Library Science. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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  • Children’S Libraries


According to Althea Warren in a 1939 report, a "medium-sized" public library is a library in a town with a population of 35,000 to 100,000.* A more contemporary statistical definition by Leon Carnovsky and Howard Winger, in an introduction to a 1962 conference on the medium-sized public library, termed it an agency "arbitrarily defined as one serving a local population of between 25,000 and 150,000." 2 The general idea in both cases remains the same. The medium-sized library is one that services a community larger than a small town or most single unincorporated suburban areas, and smaller than a metropolitan area. The medium-sized library, usually housed in one building, is described by Winger as a "locally autonomous unit serving a single community." 3 However, the Harrison (New York) Public Library serves a population of almost 22,000 with a main building and a branch, and the Hayward (California) Public Library, serving a population of 98,000, also has a branch. Whether having one branch or two, the medium-sized library is a local unit loyal to its community and, provided that it is doing a good job, receives the community's support in return. These statistics translate into human terms. They define a community that is large enough to require and support a variety of services, but small enough to receive them in a personal way.

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