Date of Award
Public Policy Leadership
In 1969, federal courts forced Mississippi to integrate public schools. Following, droves of white families moved out of Jackson for suburbs in nearby Madison and Rankin Counties. Today, the Jackson metro area is the most partisan segregated and among the top five racially segregated metro areas in the U.S. (Dottle, 2019). With that in mind, I sought to find out: How do libraries in the Jackson metro area impact their communities, and do disparities exist between Jackson’s libraries and white flight libraries?
I researched seven libraries inside the metro area’s three library systems –– three libraries in Jackson and four in white flight suburbs. The research I conducted was mixed-methods. I borrowed and slightly altered a general framework that measures the social good public libraries produce. I collected qualitative data through interviews with the three library directors and seven library branch managers. I collected quantitative information from each of the library systems’ central offices and the Mississippi Library Commission.
I came to two major conclusions: All seven of the libraries offer essential, nonreplaceable services and generate beneficial effects and social capital, though Jackson libraries produce less social capital. Second, the relationship between libraries and their communities is a two-way street –– libraries impact their community, but communities impact their library. This finding is unprecedented in the existing literature.
Ultimately, I recommend three policy options for policymakers, with the long term solution being to overhaul the Mississippi Code that dictates the way libraries are funded and to shift library funding away from local governments to the state and federal governments.
Craft, Wesley, "Libraries, their Communities, and White Flight: A Social Impact Assessment of Public Libraries in the Jackson Metro Area" (2020). Honors Theses. 1536.
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