Module 1: Community Information Needs

Libraries provide information for people who live and work in the community.

What information is needed?

Meeting the information needs of the community calls for a variety of resources and a broad understanding of the kinds of questions that patrons may need answered. The truth is out there — and a lot of people expect to find it at the library or on the library website!

The people who live and work in our communities have many information needs, including:

  • Product evaluations: Looking for reviews before making a major purchase, checking the quality and features of products.
  • Health: Seeking information on how to stay healthy and how to understand medical conditions they or their families may have.
  • Government: Seeking to understand their local, state, and federal governments, learn about government regulations and services, and find out who their elected and appointed representatives are and how to contact them, so they can participate fully in the democratic process.
  • DIY: Looking for how-to’s for car repairs, cooking, home improvement, and more.
  • Personal Enrichment: Looking for the lyrics to songs, words to poems or quotations, locating travel guides and information, playing games online, knowing the best websites for kids, or enjoying the paintings of a favorite artist.
  • Work: Seeking statistics, addresses, legal information; advice on changing careers, job searching, and resume writing.
  • School Work: Seeking information resources available in the library for papers and projects; tutorials and how-to guides for class assignments; and guidance in locating the best homework websites.
  • Readers’ Advisory: Finding a good book to read. The readers’ advisory interview uses many of the same behaviors as the reference interview.

Major Point: The one place in the community that can provide various types of information to everyone is the library.


  1. Does the library’s reference policy describe the community served or what makes your library’s community special? If this is not part of a written policy, talk to the staff. They know all the answers (or at least have heard all the questions)!
  2. Does the reference (or collection development) policy discuss the information needs of your particular community,  i.e. what kinds of information the users of your library want or expect to find at the library (topics or subjects) and in what formats (books, videos, software, etc.)?
  3. Does the library’s reference policy include serving the community with remote/virtual services?