The role of public libraries in rural communication "infostructure"

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University of Alabama Libraries

Dissemination of news and information is often challenging in small, rural communities, where sprawling geography and limited resources can limit the effectiveness of communication systems. While traditional media and local organizations attempt to inform the public through newspapers, flyers, radio, social media, and word of mouth, no one means of communication is entirely successful in reaching the masses. Rural institutions and organizations often lack a means of communicating current news to members of small towns due to the void of an integrated information infrastructure, or infostructure. Borrowing from the framework of Communication Infrastructure Theory and previously suggested models for community infrastructure, this study was an effort to better understand how people in this small town communicate – how they create, disseminate and prefer to receive information about the community. This exploratory, qualitative, case study examined communications in one small, rural town to determine whether or not the library might be able to partner with local media, resident networks, and other organizations in the community, to maximize available resources, eliminate duplication, and increase overall effectiveness in the communication infrastructure. This new model would place the public library, or anchor institution, at the center of the storytelling network, as the hub for local news and information. Through interviews and focus groups with 32 members of the community under study, I identified ways in which people communicate, connections between storytelling agents within the local storytelling network, and voids that, if addressed might improve the community’s ability to communicate in general. This study suggested ways that libraries might serve a role as the anchor of anchors for communication in rural communities.

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Library science, Information science, Communication