Describing Vernacular Literacy Practices to Enhance Understanding of Community Information Needs

Denice Adkins, Jenny Bossaller, Kim M. Thompson


Key documents guiding U.S. library service, including Reference and User Service Association (RUSA) guidelines and the American Library Association (ALA) Code of Ethics and Bill of Rights, focus on equitable public library service. By viewing literacy practices as an increasingly crucial realm of the social structure, librarians, policy makers, social researchers, and other interested groups can better understand information barriers that result in social inequality. A clear understanding of vernacular literacy will afford librarians greater insight to the information needs of the public, including a greater understanding of nonusers of their libraries.

The reality of providing materials in multiple languages to meet information needs for multiple cultures is more complicated than simply looking at demographics that are available through the Department of the Census. This study demonstrates the value of field research to more fully understand the literacy needs of one's service community.

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