The Public Place of Central Libraries: Findings from Toronto and Vancouver
The last decade has seen a relative boom in the construction of central public libraries across North America. The social roles these public institutions play for society is a pressing issue in light of decreasing public funding, advancing information technologies, and an economy increasingly information-driven and decentralized. This article examines the public's use of two of Canada's largest central libraries, the Toronto Reference Library and the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch. The data gathered support the notion that these libraries fulfill many of the normative ideals of a successful public place and serve as important resources in the increasingly information-driven, knowledge-based economy. We conclude that private market interests encroaching upon this institution, and not advances in information technologies, represent a threat to its multifaceted role as a successful public place.