2003 Dr. Jean E. Coleman Library Outreach Lecture Abstract

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By Thelma H. Tate, Global Outreach Coordinator, Rutgers University Libraries, New Brunswick, N.J.

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"Unserved and Underserved Populations: Empowering People for Productivity in the 21 st Century" 

Technological advances in the 21 st century have refocused libraries at the center of knowledge and information literacy. As leaders and promoters of literacy development for productive citizenry through these libraries, librarians and information specialists are in key positions to play pivotal roles in the design, implementation and assessment of programs and services for underserved and unserved populations in our diverse communities. The possibilities, opportunities, and resources needed to reach out and serve members of our remote, rural and urban areas have never been greater.

However, due to the lack of adequate access to information, many citizens suffer from literacy anemia that can threaten the productive power of our communities. Consider the potentials for productivity among unserved and unserved members of our communities. The staggering statistics on the lack of service to new and non-readers, the geographically isolated, persons with disabilities, the rural and urban poor people, and all those who struggle against various types of discrimination.

To what extent are librarians maximizing options resulting from advances in information technology to build initiatives that serve underserved and unserved populations in our communities? In light of the philosophy of literacy empowerment for societal development presented in the life and work of Jean Ellen Coleman, this paper highlights research, creative ideas and models from around the world for designing, implementing, and assessing literacy programs that can effectively serve the needs of diverse populations.

By reflecting on the impact of programs and services that have resulted in more literate populations who have contributed to community-based library innovations and services, librarians and information specialists will be inspired to create new literacy initiatives that empower our diverse populations with good decision-making skills for productivity in our society.