No one on the left should… think that a taste for high culture which means in short, a

taste for the best things in all arts – is anything but as conducive to the general good

as it is to their own.

(Grayling, 2002)

For the past decade public libraries, in common with many other institutions, have

been affected by government policies which are designed to bring excluded members

of society into the mainstream. In the United Kingdom, this has been a major aim of

the New Labour administrations, and strategies concerned with equality and diversity

look set to continue for the foreseeable future. Moreover, government Ministers

have made it clear that public libraries are to be included in future policy initiatives

designed to ‘combat social exclusion and promote neighbourhood renewal across

the country’ (Woolas in CILIP News 2006). It is now widely accepted that: ‘Public

libraries have an excellent record in tackling social exclusion by reaching out to

marginalised communities and offering a huge range of valuable services. Libraries

are integral to every community in Britain and provide a neutral environment where

people can access resources which might otherwise remain out-of-reach’ (Brown in

CILIP News 2006). The library is seen as a democratic institution which ‘succeeds

in reaching groups in the poorest social position’ (Vakkari, 1989).