Date of Award


Degree Name

Leadership Studies


College of Education and Professional Development

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Dr. Sissy Isaacs, Committee Chairperson

Second Advisor

Dr. Ronald Childress

Third Advisor

Dr. Monica Brooks


The role of public libraries is changing in response to a multitude of influences and trends. The exponential growth of technology as the primary method of information access, funding challenges, changing demographics, and other mitigating factors have forced public libraries to become more than book repositories. Community library leaders and governing board members are faced with challenges such as decreased funding, community division regarding library services, and soaring costs for library materials and services, as they develop and adopt policies and practices to navigate this ever-changing environment.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to collect data from the public library directors, branch managers, and governing boards of directors across Eastern Kentucky, Southern West Virginia, and Southern Ohio, to describe the evolving role of the public library to understand how that role is changing in response to multiple threats and challenges, and to identify strategic guidelines and implications for library leaders and governing board members as they plan and develop the library of the future.

The role of the public library is very diverse in Central Appalachia because the community’s needs vary widely based on population, education, economic opportunity, and social services available. However, the public library is most often filling the role of a community center in small Central Appalachian communities encouraging radical positive community change. Funding was found to be the primary challenge facing public libraries. Secondary challenges were found to be access to community education and awareness, technology, and availability of library resources. Administrative and leadership implications were found to be book challenges, political leadership, obtaining and retaining qualified staff and training, aging buildings and infrastructure, and community awareness.


Public libraries -- Appalachian Region.

Rural libraries -- Appalachian Region.

Leadership -- Libraries.

Political leadership.

Library finance.

Library fund raising.

Libraries and community -- Appalachian Region.


West Virginia.