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Rural and Small Libraries: The Tribal Experience

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Abstract

This chapter discusses some of the challenges faced by tribal libraries. Considering the information provided throughout the rest of this volume, it is clear that some of the core issues-such as poor broadband availability, difficulties in achieving economies of scale, and barriers to collaboration-are shared between tribal institutions and rural libraries throughout the United States. The chapter presents a brief review of the literature on tribal libraries, establishing how they compare with rural public libraries in the United States. The remainder of the chapter is designed as a conversation piece, with responses from interviews with librarians from two tribal libraries detailing how the challenges faced by these outlets parallel those faced by America's rural libraries. • Tribal libraries face obstacles that are common among nontribal rural public libraries, such as poor broadband Internet availability, lack of funding, and geographic barriers that limit patron access. • Although public libraries exist in some tribal communities, other forms of libraries and cultural heritage institutions often fill the service roles that public libraries occupy in nontribal communities. • Public-oriented information institutions in tribal communities commonly preserve and promote tribal heritage, often as one of their primary purposes. Considering that this is often achieved on limited budgets, further documentation of these efforts could be useful for guiding nontribal rural public libraries that wish to do more to preserve and promote their local cultural heritage. This study creates bridges between rural public libraries in the United States and tribal libraries, which are commonly studied as two separate phenomena. Although the authors document how these types of institutions differ from each other in significant ways, barriers of broadband access, geographic isolation, and lack of funding are common across both rural and tribal libraries. The information provided in this chapter shows that both types of institutions need solutions for similar problems. Copyright © 2018 by Emerald Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
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