Examines the concept of the street corner university, and assesses the political, social and marketing implications of such a concept being adopted as a vision for the UK public library service. Current views regarding the provision of public library services are explored from the perspectives of Government and the profession. Issues regarding equity of provision and the role of the library service promoting policies of social inclusion are discussed and evaluated. Concludes that, unless the public library service can meet the challenges facing it, it will become increasingly marginalized within society. The dominant paradigms of the profession must be viewed as complementary rather than contradictory, and the successes of the present reconciled with visions of the future, if the true potential of both the street corner university concept and the public library service is to be achieved.