Date of Award

5-2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Information Sciences

Major Professor

Bharat Mehra

Committee Members

Rachel A. Fleming-May, Vandana Singh

Abstract

Outreach services provided by rural public libraries are crucial to fulfilling their mission to provide information access to the widest array of user groups. Particular socioeconomic and geographic factors in rural areas present challenges of access to information resources, yet there exists only a limited amount of published scholarly work examining outreach services provided specifically by rural public libraries. This case study of outreach services to elder users provided by the Washington County Public Library (WCPL), located in Washington County, Virginia, offers contextual evidence for the centrality of social equity and access to the larger work of rural public libraries. Primary data were collected through four semi-structured focus group meetings conducted with elder users of the agency’s outreach services as well as through narrative interviews with six agency staff members. Secondary data were collected through content analysis of agency documents, such as internal reports and handouts, informational brochures and fliers, annual programming reports, strategic planning documents, and assessment and evaluation reports related to WCPL and the services it provides.The case study of WCPL’s outreach services answered three research questions: what are the particular information needs of the elder users served by WCPL; what impact do the WCPL outreach services have on the lives of elder users; and how might WCPL outreach services to elder users be improved? Principal findings showed that elder users had particular information needs related to entertainment and intellectual stimulation, challenges of transportation, and a limited access to technology and Internet service. WCPL outreach services were found to positively impact the lives and general well-being of elder users by providing vital social and community connections and serving as a key link for elder users to an institution understood to be central to the life of the community in general. Findings also indicated that outreach services to elder users could be improved by expanding the general reach and effectiveness of the services.

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