The Concept of Library: Definition of Library

Definition of Library

The word library takes its root from the Latin word “Liber” which means books. So from the inception of libraries, they have always been associated with books. In the past, the arrangement of these books did not follow any definite order until librarianship started gaining grounds as a profession in the 19th century. It was then that standards were set up for the practice of the profession for uniformity.

The Glossary of Library and Information Sciences (1983) defined a library as “a collection of books and other library materials kept for reading, studying and consultation”. This ALA definition has long been overtaken by events, because libraries today are distinguished by their emphasis on organization and use of collection in order to meet the information needs of users. It therefore means that any book collection that does not lay emphasis on organization and use of materials is technically not a library.

The present meaning of libraries have changed tremendously to include other non-book materials that contain information to satisfy the needs of the library users. A library can therefore be defined as an organized collection of book and non-book materials, housed and organized in a place for use, with one or more persons trained to assist in the use of collection.

UNESCO (1954) substantiates the current meaning of libraries, when it defined it as “an organized collection of published books and periodicals and of other reading and audio-visual materials and the services of a staff, able to provide and interpret such materials as are required to meet the information, research, educational or recreational
needs of the users”.

It is explanatory therefore that all products of advances in technology that contain or enhance information, can now be found in libraries and that is because present day libraries and librarians are not as much interested in the sources of information, as in the information itself.

The New Encyclopedia Britannica (1983) defined the library as “a collection of written, printed or recorded material (including films, photographs, tapes, phonograph records, video disc, micro forms and computer programmes) organized and maintained for reading, study and consultation”.

The inclusion of these other sources of information as library materials have changed the meaning of library and have also left the librarians, who organize these libraries with great responsibilities of ensuring that their users get maximum satisfaction of their information needs, through the proper and adequate use of well organized collections.

Objectives and Functions of Libraries

In today’s society that is complex, information has become a vital resource for national development. It is often said that knowledge is power and there can never be any knowledge without information.

It can therefore be said that information comes with it, knowledge, which is the driving force for development. Information can be found in various  materials, be they books or non-books and the collection, organization sources of information library and information and use of these various is the primary business of studies.

The place of the library and information in national development cannot be overlooked because they are the basic structures that drive the process of development. It therefore means that the various sources of information that help enhance development must be adequately processed, utilized and preserved for use, by the individuals who ultimately develop the nation.

Libraries like all growing organization grow in numbers, specialty and composition. The changes often associated with the growing process of libraries have made it very difficult for users to keep up to date with the challenges. And this often leads to loss of interest in the use of library collection, as well as underutilization of library collection.

These challenges call for proper user instruction and orientation in order to satisfy the needs of library users who most often are not at home with the complex nature of the library.

In the higher educational institutions, the library is a major infrastructure for the business of teaching and learning. Students, who lack basic. library skills, may find it very difficult to effectively cope with the level of academic work that goes on in higher institutions.

Objectives of the Library

Various types of libraries have different objectives, the objectives of libraries in higher education include the following:

•To ensure lifelong education through effective and efficient use of library materials.
•To help in the realization of the goals of the parent institution.
•To encourage adequate and proper use of information materials through proper organization of library materials.
•To supplement teaching and research programmes of the parent institution through the provision of relevant information materials.
•To help inculcate good reading habits and ideals in both staff and students of the institutions.
•To provide variety of library materials to support the courses offered in the school.
•To help in preservation of information materials for posterity.

Functions of the Library

The library being a major support infrastructure for the whole enterprise of teaching and learning has a lot of functions to perform. Different types of libraries have peculiar functions, but some of the general functions include the following:-

•Provision of library materials: The library has a primary function of providing information materials that will meet the needs of the user for study, teaching, research and learning. These materials include, books in different.subjects, standard reference books, government documents, artworks, audio- visuals, newspapers and journals, etc.

•Organisation of materials: This  has to do with the processing of acquired materials by cataloguing and classifying the materials. Organizing these materials have become more essential now, more than ever, if you consider the extent of global information explosion and the volume of materials available in the library.

•Provision of Access to Materials: A well
organized library without an efficient means for retrieving the organized materials will still leave users more confused. There is need therefore for proper shelving, as well as the provision of other retrieval means like the library catalogue, bibliographies, indexes and abstracts.

•Circulation of materials: Library materials must be circulated in such a way that every user who has need for the book can have it. Circulation can be in form of lending of books for home use or the reservation of rare and important books to ensure equal use. However, such function can only benefit registered users of the library and not all books can be loaned out.

•Preservation of library materials: This is a very important service rendered by the library. Government is paying lip service to libraries in terms of funding. This makes preservation a very relevant service because through it materials are preserved from one generation to another.

•Information and educational roles: These are some of the fundamental roles of libraries, especially in this information and knowledge age. Information is a very powerful resource and technological breakthrough has made it easy for information networks to be built among libraries; using the internet to access information. The library is a major support infrastructure for education and complements it in very many ways.

Forms of Library Services

Academic libraries, which are libraries found in the higher institutions, offer variety of services to their users. Considering the level of academic work that go on in these institutions, the various forms of services offered are all aimed at ensuring that library resources are optimally utilized. Some of these services include the following:-

1. Reprographic and bindery service: It involves the photocopying, cyclostyling and binding of materials. It affords users the opportunity to get copies of materials of interest and bind their.torn and worn out materials.

2. User instruction and orientation: The service enables the users to develop the needed retrieval skills for locating materials. It also helps to create the needed awareness about the place of the library in the student’s academic life.

3. Book reservation and lending: This service is rendered in libraries, to ensure proper circulation of rare and inadequate materials. Through the service, rare and inadequate materials are removed from the open shelf and reserved in a section of the library for proper monitoring. Lending service on the other hand makes it possible for users to borrow and take
books outside the library within a given period.

4. Engagement in inter-library cooperation: The service covers all arrangements among libraries of the same type to cooperate. The cooperation could be in any form, as agreed amongst the cooperating libraries.

5. Documentation and information services: The service covers typesetting, printing and internet services. With the service, users can typeset and print their works, upload and download information with the help of the internet service provided within the library building.

6. Advisory and reference services: The service enables the librarian to advice users on how best to handle their information needs. In some cases, they might refer them to other libraries where the needed information can be got, if it is not available in that particular library.

7.Strategic Dissemination of Information (SDI): Through the SDI, librarians select, gather, and send information materials to users, who have filled a profile form, stating their areas of interest.

8. Current Awareness Services (CAS): Through the service, the library displays current textbooks, journals, magazines and other information materials to users, in order to inform them of new additions to the library collections.

9. Provision of Internet Services through computers: Due to advances in Information, communication, technology, libraries now provide internet services, to enable their users have access to information materials of their choice anywhere in the world, using a network of computers.

10. Inter library loan: A component of inter – library cooperation. Through this process, each of the cooperating libraries can allow their users to borrow books from each library.

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