The US Information Infrastructure and Libraries: A Case Study in Democracy

Document Type



Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the US information infrastructure, including discussion of federal policy affecting the evolution of the infrastructure. Libraries are then discussed as a means to further utilize the information infrastructure to ensure democratic access to information. Design/methodology/approach – The paper begins with a brief history of the evolution of the US information infrastructure and then turns to discussion of how libraries can maximize their utility within the context of this information society. Findings – The paper identifies the richness of the information infrastructure and the potential for information poverty of Americans if libraries are not careful to focus on the information available through information technology rather than focus on the information technology itself. Research limitations/implications – This paper is based on an historical look at the democratic underpinnings of the US information infrastructure and outlines general trends in US federal information policy that lead to the modern US information society. Practical implications – It is the author's wish that librarians and other information professionals use this work to support their focus on information access, using information technology and the rest of the information infrastructure to provide top information service and access to their users. Originality/value – Democratic rule requires an informed populace. The key to an informed populace is utilizing a nation's information infrastructure to most fully disseminate and gather needed information to and from the citizens of that nation. This case study provides an historical overview of the evolution of one nation's information infrastructure as a means to draw attention to the leading role libraries can take in supporting a democratic society, providing access to information via information technologies.