By Louise Greene, ARSL Board Member and Secretary
Recently I was in a discussion with fellow students in the PEARL Project about the definition of ‘rural’. One of them told me the library director in a city of 190,000 residents considered them ‘rural’. That’s strange. Or is it?
You see, I was arguing for a definition of rural that included state of mind rather than one used by the Census Bureau or the Department of Agriculture that is exclusively about population size. IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) also defines rural according to population size but adds distance to the definition. Last year at the ARSL annual conference in Raleigh, N.C., Susan Hildreth, Director of the IMLS, gave a presentation showing that rural libraries (47% of all public libraries) were broken down into three separate categories: fringe rural, distant rural, and remote rural.
My fellow student raised a very good question: what about attitude, or the perspective from within the library or the community? Two small communities of the same size and equally distant from a metro area may have totally different attitudes. One can be a corporate bedroom community with many amenities; the other may have no corporate character or amenities. Yet both may have libraries. Does anyone want to hazard a guess as to which of these community libraries consider themselves ‘the real rural library’?
Now how about that library in the city of 200,000? Being 2-4 hours away on the interstate from any place even close to the same size can sure feel remote…..
What do you think? Post your comments below!