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Industrial Library: An overview

Industrial Library


A library is a collection of information resources and services, organized for use, and maintained by a public body, institution, or private individual. In the more traditional sense, it means a collection of books. People who choose not to or cannot afford to purchase an extensive collection themselves, and who require professional assistance with their research use this collection and services. However, with the collection of media other than books for storing information, many libraries are now also repositories and access points for maps, prints or other documents and artworks on various storage media such as microfilm, microfiche, audio tapes, CDs, LPs, cassettes, video tapes and DVDs, and provide public facilities to access CD-ROM and subscription databases and the Internet. Thus, modern libraries are increasingly being redefined as places to get unrestricted access to information in many formats and from many sources. In addition to providing materials, they also provide the services of specialists who are experts in matters related to finding and organizing information and interpreting information needs, called librarians. More recently, libraries are understood as extending beyond the physical walls of a building, by including material accessible through electronic means, and by providing the assistance of librarians in navigating and analyzing tremendous amounts of knowledge with a variety of digital tools. Libraries can be categorized into Academic, Public and Special libraries. Academic libraries are located on the campuses of colleges and universities; and serve primarily the students and faculty of that and other academic institutions. Public libraries provide service to the general public and make at least some of their books available for borrowing, so .that readers may use them at home over a period of days or weeks. The other libraries fall into Special library category. Many private businesses and public organizations, including hospitals, museums, research laboratories, law firms, and many government departments, industries and agencies, maintain their own libraries for the use of their employees in doing specialized research related to their work. Industrial libraries belong to this special library category and to a large extent an outgrowth of the efforts on the part of businessmen and women.

Origin of Industrial Libraries:

The establishment of industrial libraries is one of the results of the widespread interest in technical education and of the increase in advertising, publicity, and specialized development, which attends the commercial prosperity of the country. Properly administered as a quick, reliable clearinghouse for the information, to facilitate work among the members of a company or community with information of the most miscellaneous kind, such a library becomes a very important factor in, as well as a result of, industrial prosperity. A large number of industrial libraries exist today, which are successful, efficient, necessary parts of manufacturers and business associations.

In this section the investigator has made an attempt to provide a brief account on the development of library and information services in industrial organizations in USA, UK and India.

Industrial libraries to a large extent are an outgrowth of the efforts on the part of public libraries to develop their usefulness among businessmen and women. When librarians began to make usefulness an ideal for their institution, they found a vast opportunity awaiting them. First increased attention was given to buy technical, artisans and business books. Then special attention was given to reference work by experts. Finally separate industrial departments were established in a few public libraries, such as Pittsburg, Providence, New York and Washington. In other libraries where this could not be afforded, the same purpose has been served, to some degree, by assigning some specially fitted or interested number of the staff to look after book purchases and references works of industrial nature.

The role of libraries and information centers in the American industry was significant in the history of modern librarianship. “Comprehensive study of business and industrial libraries in the US (1820-1940)”by Anthony Kruzas traced the beginning to the early 19th century (1820), when mechanics and mercantile libraries were established. They were followed by factory and club libraries (1830-50); company established and supported special libraries (1840). Businessmen’s association libraries (1850), and deposit stations, public library – business and industrial divisions (1900).

Kruzas (1965) identified the following basic patterns that lead to the establishment of company libraries there after:

(i) Libraries started gradually and informally in departments where a professional group in a company needed them.

(ii) Managerial staff often with the hiring of a librarian who accumulated appropriate resources created libraries.

(iii) Libraries developed from the interests of a company official who gradually acquired a personal book collection related to his business, and

(iv) Technical libraries were superimposed on previously established recreational welfare or educational collection for employees.

Kruzas (1965) documentation shows that research, sales, and statistical departments were the most common places of origin of manufacturing company libraries; less frequently they began in advertising, public relations, publicity and personal departments to support information dissemination activities. From a meager number of 6 company libraries in 1860, the figure rose to 1010 by the year 1940, with large-scale expansion between 1911 and 1940 in the US. There was tremendous growth in the number of company libraries, especially in scientific and technical areas after World War II.

The structure of industry in UK changed in a major way since World War II and consequently there was immense growth in industrial libraries. Burkett (1972), in his detailed study of industrial libraries in the UK traced the growth of library and information services in various sectors of industry.

Amongst earliest companies with industrial libraries were those in the field of chemicals i.e. of ICI, the Dyes division library in 1913. British petroleum established in 1909 started a library in 1917 in its Sunbury Research Laboratories. Other companies which provided library facilities during the 1930s included May & Baker, Glaxo and Beecham.

The post-second World War period witnessed a great increase in research efforts and greater number of highly educated employees. Burkett (1972) further observes that the library and information services of ICI, Unilever, Metal Box, Reckitt & Colman, English Electric, IBM and others although started at different times owe their origin and continued development to enlightened research directors. It has also been observed that in industries where research effort has expanded, there has been a corresponding steady growth rate in library and information services. These companies include Unilever research laboratories, Beecham’s pharmaceutical division, Brooke Bond, May & Baker, IBM, Metal Box etc.

The most important development during the late ’70’s has been the increasing use of computers in library operations. On line search facilities became fully operational in a number of industrial units, lead by the pharmaceutical companies Haygarth Jackson (1977). The Library Association Industrial Group, established in 1971, encouraged all those who provided better library services to industry and commerce. Since 1977 all sectors of industry have made greater use of most categories of extra industrial sources of information (Information demand and supply in British Industry 1977-1983). Another major trend during the period has been the attention paid in industry to provide a more detailed coverage of the marketing and commercial aspects of business, i.e. to develop; for industry the type of information service which was formerly only expected from commercial houses. Numerous new databases have been made available during the early 1980s including those providing financial and other information in companies, those providing general business journals. There has also been considerable expansion in the provision of in-house databases, often using software originally developed within industrial organizations. The various branches of the British library also render valuable services to industrial libraries in UK.

Different phases of industrial library development in India were linked with the growth of special libraries in research and scientific institutions, government departments, commercial and business organizations, mission-oriented institutions in the filed of agriculture, medicine, forestry, veterinary science and various braches of engineering. Hence it would be appropriate to trace the origin and growth of industrial libraries as an integral part of special library development. In India, the developments of special libraries were not planned. Their development was gradual with progress in scientific and technical research. Unlike UK, special libraries in India for most part have preceded the development of public library system. India stands third in Asia in respect of number of special libraries after Japan and China Ankur and Krzys ( 1987).

General Features of Industrial Libraries:

Growth of industries determines the pace of economic development of a nation. Industrial libraries play an important role in providing relevant information for development of industries. To keep pace with the advancements in technology and management, the information needs in industry are also becoming more and more sophisticated. To cope up with this emerging need industrial libraries are also equipped with recent information and advanced technology. Industrial library professionals act as an important channel for information transmission with a variety of information services to support industrial information management. Hence job satisfaction of industrial library professionals is very important for increasing performance level of libraries, which in turn enhances productivity of industries.

The library or information centre in industry is an important resource, which contributes to the accomplishment of objectives by the organization. The aims and objectives of the industrial library are identified closely with those of the organization, so that the library can meet the real information needs of its clientele. The primary objective of any industrial library is to provide timely, accurate and appropriate information to the organization to succeed in its technical and business operations.

Functions of Industrial Libraries:

With the above prime objective, the library performs the following functions:

  • Acquire and organize documents, and more importantly the information they contain, into a structured form so as to regularize its retrieval. The library also provides expertise in handling information, its storage, retrieval, and exploitation. The information dealt by industrial library can be grouped into the broad • subject categories of scientific and technical information, business and economic information and financial, personnel and legal information. Thus the prime aims are to save time and money by avoiding duplication and to enable the staff to exploit the information provided.
  • The industrial library is a corporate memory bank. It acts as the central point for acquisition, storage, and exploitation of internally generated information.
  • The industrial library’s strength lies in being up-to-date. It takes an active role in the acquisition of material information for both current and future use. It filters information, not required and brings out pertinent material to the attention of the users.

On the basis of the features described above, several functions and services are clearly identified by the profession. The consensus of the literature such as Blackwell (1969), cater and William (1959), Dasgupta (1985), Sharma and Ray Choudhury (1989) give the following specific functions and services.

Selection of materials and information covering a wide range of subjects is determined by the objectives of the organization. The depth of coverage in each field is governed by the nature of the organization’s work, and the size of the collection will depend on the amount of relevant materials available.

Types of Industrial Libraries:

The purpose of the library and the organization of the company departments, which is to serve, determine its own form and extent. In a typical industrial concern, it connects with every department and employee. If the company product is widely advertised, the library will do more work with the advertising departmeht. For construction or shop departments it will index and furnish information from books, and magazines on machine work and tool design for foreman and employees. However, according to Joseph Wheeler, the industrial libraries may be classified into following groups:

  • Libraries maintained by manufactures, corporations, and commercial associations for professionals’ office service;
  • Circulating libraries maintained by manufactures and corporations for employees and their families;
  • Libraries maintained both for professional and personal uses;
  • Industrial department of public libraries;
  • Industrial branches or separate public industrial libraries;
  • Libraries connected with trade, apprentice, and industrial schools • Libraries of engineering colleges and college departments;
  • Libraries of technical societies and government departments. The present study concentrates on first type of industrial libraries.

Collection of Industrial Libraries:

Acquisition of library collection in various physical forms is the most important function of an industrial library. The quality of the collection by and large affects the quality of the services. The securing of information in any form, from any source, and covering any subject matter is terms as acquisition. However, no library needs to be limited by its own stock, and to be successful, the library should tap outside resources and other library networks. In this process, the library also exchanges information with external sources. There can be.no stringent rule governing the ratio of resources required to the size of organization, particularly as information is available in so many formats like paper, electronic or microform. Usually an industrial library has collection in the form of internal and external resources as given below:

(a) Internal resources:

(i) Technical reports and memorandum

(ii) Annual reports and financial statements

(iii) Research and laboratory notes

(iv) Conference papers presented by the staff

(v) Proceeding of conferences attended by the staff

(vi) In-house magazines and trade literature

(vii) Archival records

(viii) Drawings, photographs etc.

(b) External sources

(i) Books (monographs, textbooks, reference books, handbooks etc.

(ii) Pamphlets

(iii) Periodicals

(iv) Abstracts, indexes and bibliographies

(v) Reports

(vi) Preprints and conference papers

(vii) Standards and specifications

(viii) Patents

(ix) Thesis and dissertations

(x) Directories

(xi) Translations

(xii) Statutory and legislative documents

(xiii) Statistics.

(xiv) Trade literature

(xv) Audio-visual materials including micro-forms, video-slides, photographs

(xvi) Drawings, illustrations, maps etc.

The activity that follows the acquisition is processing and organization of the acquired information to determine whether it duplicates an item already in the library and to furnish the means to recall the same from the files by the library staff or the user. The processing functions include descriptive cataloguing, subject cataloguing, classification and indexing.

Organizations of Industrial Libraries:

Library organization needs the planning of human resources need for its operation. Planning the industrial library organization structure helps librarians foresee future personnel needs and determine the kind of training employees require. For recruitment to be effective the librarians of industrial library should have a clear idea of the kind of employees they want and the kind of experience these employees must have. Only then they will be able to recruit people who fit into the organization structure. Organization planning also identifies weaknesses in an organization, like obsolete practices, excessive bureaucracy, by comparing the desirable organizational structure and the actual organizational structures.

Financial Planning of Industrial Libraries:

The primary objective of the financial planning is to have a planned information regarding heads of sources of income and expenditure. Financial planning helps the librarians to take decisions regarding the expenditure heads of their library. In industrial libraries, the financial planning plays a major role in deciding the sources of revenue and budget for a particular year. The resources allocated to libraries of industries are divided into various heads such as infrastructure, staff management, collection of information and others heads. An effective financial planning helps in smooth functioning of industrial libraries.

Human Resource Management in Industrial Libraries:

Human Resources Management (HRM) can be defined as the organized function for planning of human resource needs and then conducting recruitment, selection, development, compensation and evaluation of performance to fill those needs, The HRM process is an ongoing function that aims to keep the organization supplied with the right people in the right position, when they are needed. Human Resources are the backbone of industrial libraries for rendering effective services to its users. Industrial libraries have qualified professional who are aware of the advanced technologies to accomplish their task more effectively. So a talented human force is imperative in industrial libraries.

Human resource management is the effective use of human resources in order to enhance organization performance. Human Resource Management is the area of organizational life that focuses on the effective management and utilization of people. This function is often understood to mean administrative activities such as recruitment, wage and payroll management, and benefits. Human resources are considered as the most vital and valuable resources of an organization, as the productivity and quality outputs of organizational performance are assessed in terms of its employee’s performance. Performance of human being depends on the satisfaction level of individuals. Over the past few years, however, a shift in the concept of management from control to development has led to a more inclusive definition of the human resources field. With a.growing recognition of the key role staffs play in the success of an organization, it now encompasses those activities that promote greater job satisfaction and that support the development of individuals within the context of the workplace.

Today industrial libraries are faced with the challenge of retaining the effective staff who has the skills necessary to respond to new and changing environments and increased user demands. Ways and means must be found out not only to reduce the, stress and prevent burnout but also to sustain a level of interest and job satisfaction among staff to ensure a high level performance.

Information Access and Retrieval Services

The research context of information access and retrieval aims at modelling, designing and implementing information systems able to provide fast and effective content-based access to a large amount of information. Information can be of any kind: textual, visual, or auditory and is generally contained and organized in documents. The aim of such systems is to estimate the relevance of documents to a user information need. Information Retrieval has grown well beyond its primary goals of indexing and searching textual documents in static bibliographic collections and has moved away from the perception of being the narrow area of interest of librarians and information experts. With the expansion of the Internet and of the Web, other access techniques have been identified and developed, such as Recommender Systems and Information Filtering systems.

Effective dissemination of information is the final objective of any industrial library through all possible means. Once the information has been acquired and procured its existence is to be brought to the attention of appropriate users so that it can be utilized productively. Further, the development of resources, whether internal or external, has only value so far as it generates and stimulates the use of the service provided by the library to meet the information needs of the users. Such services fall into one of the four well defined areas: document services, alerting services, inquiry services and adjunct services.

Document services cover the provision of copy of a specific item to b6 retained by the user besides the acquisition and provision of required documents for consultation in the library or for borrowing. An alternate service aims at the provision of material or information on a particular topic at regular intervals in a format specified by the user in advance. Current Awareness Service (CAS) and Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) are examples of such services. On the other hand, an inquiry service covers the identification of specific information or data elements by search and selection in response to a request. Usually reference services like literature search service (manual and on-line), compilation of bibliographies etc. come under this category of services. The last kind i.e. adjunct services cover the provision of text editing, translation, archiving, exhibitions, and public relations services. Only, well-staffed libraries will be able to offer most of the adjunct services.

Knowledge Management in Industrial Libraries:

Knowledge Management is the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets. It is the practice of harnessing and exploiting intellectual capital to gain competitive advantage decision-making. Most often, generating value from such assets involves sharing them among employees, departments and even with other companies in an effort to devise best practices. Knowledge creation and sharing is gaining momentum in industrial library set up to gain competitive advantage. The primary goal of knowledge management in industrial libraries is to provide the right knowledge at the right time to the right person. More and more industrial libraries are attempting to embrace the knowledge management tools for saving costs and propelling growth. Knowledge management supports and coordinates the creation, transfer and application of individual knowledge in value creation process in industrial libraries. Thus, the knowledge management must be realized in a corporate culture that promotes knowledge management activities which supports systematic application of innovation and quality management tools and methods.
20208 User Education in Industrial Libraries
Another important aspect of industrial librarianship is to create awareness about the library and its services among its users. User education is a “process whereby the library user is firstly made aware of the extent and number of the library resources available to him or her, and secondly teaches how to use these services and resources”. This implies library orientation program and bibliographic instruction.

Functions of the library influenced by major factors like techno-economic changes, increased awareness of the readers about the value of information, plethora of published information and advanced library techniques, justify the need for the education of the industrial library user. User education in special libraries differs compared to academic libraries. The educational aspect no longer applies in special libraries in the sense that it does in educational institutions. The user population in special libraries is heterogeneous in nature defined by occupations — managers, scientists, administrations, accountants, shop floor workers etc. Their interactions in the organization are more complex and hence they produce multiple information flows and information systems. Thus direct education of users may not be suitable for special library users. Instead, informal user education methods like personal interaction between library staff and user for mutual benefit would be more appropriate.

The advantages of user education program are:

  • Keeping the user aware of what the information service can do for him/her.
  • Helping the user to identify his/her information problems and communicate them to the library staff.
  • Through feedback from the user to the library staff, improvements in the facilities and services may be brought out.
  • Ascertain the changing subject interests of users by the library staff and
  • Facilitate the involvement of library staff in projects, which have information implications.

Further, better relations with users and better understanding of the organization; helps the library staff to have insight into the users needs and to take initiatives for effective user education.

Application of Information Communication Technology in Industrial Libraries.

By definition, ICTs include electronic networks – embodying complex hardware and software – linked by a vast array of technical protocols. Information Communication Technology (ICT) is the capability to electronically input, process, store, output, transmit, and receive data and information, including text, graphics, sound, and video, as well as the ability to control machines of all kinds electronically. Completing the task of sing the information technology results in rapid processing and information mobility, as well as improved reliability and integrity of processed information. Use of Information communication technology (ICT) in information centres facilitates an efficient, speedy and transparent dissemination of information to its patrons. The importance of ICT in information centres has been recognized the world over.

One of the imperative uses of ICT in libraries is to store and communicate the information generated in the form database for easy retrieval of information and storage for future use. Library personnel are expert in selecting, evaluating and disseminating these stored information to their users. New technologies on one hand supplements the effort of librarians in providing the services, and on the other hand causes stress and anxiety while processing through vast available information through limited technologies.

As a result, attempts have been made by the Government of India to develop good infrastructure of library and information services in the country during the Last four decades. To highlight some of the achievement, it may be mentioned that the country now has four national libraries viz., the National Library, Calcutta, the National Library and National Science Library and National Medical Library, Delhi and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute Library, Delhi; considered as the national library for agriculture. Secondary documentation services at the national level are provided by the Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC), the Defence Science Information and Documentation Centre (DESIDOC), and National Social Sciences Documentation Centre (SENDOC) and several institutional libraries such as Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Electronics Commission, Atomic Energy Commission etc. Private sector institutions like Ahmedabad Textile Industries Research Association (ATIRA) and research oriented institutions like Defence Research Association (DRA) and research oriented institutions like Defence Research and Development Laboratories (DRDL), Central Pulp and Paper Research Institute, Indian Institute of Petroleum, have also been playing a major role in building up information sources and services in different subject fields.

Role of Industrial Libraries:

Generally it is observed that large volume of published information is lost because the major part of industry is not able to organize it. It emphasized the need for a specialist’s skills and experience both in collection and distribution to keep the scientists and technicians abreast of latest technical information.

‘Bibliographical scatter’ creates many problems in locating the necessary information leading to waste of time and effort of users. It is one of the reasons to have a trained librarian capable of disseminating of the right information to the right person at the right time at the right cost so that busy information users are not burdened with unnecessary reading of irrelevant information.

Bakeweil 0969) adds another major role of industrial librarian i.e., training of colleagues in the organization by keeping them informed of the new trends in their fields of interest. As early as 1923, the role of library in industrial research has been emphasized. In his view ‘real discoveries are actually made in the library and subsequently tested out in the laboratory. A new discovery is a new combination of old ideas and those combinations are most likely to occur to the mind of the scientists, not even when he is handling material things, but when he is brooking over the thoughts of other men and rethinking them himself. In hours of profound reflection, the new combination may occur to him and then he goes to the laboratory to verify or disprove. The library remains the great essential to discovery. It was also proved that preliminary library research with regard to current development and also about the past is more important than laboratory research. He also emphasized the role of industrial information service in overcoming the problem of waste of time and money by preventing duplication within the company. According to him a library attached to a company can store the information produced internally as central repository which reveals information about the findings of past and current research.

The effective information flow within and into the company is important components in successful innovation. The industrial library facilitates such flows by collection and dissemination of information, and also plays a major role in the communication network, which links the various intra-functions and departments.

The importance of industrial libraries can be reinforced by the challenges posed by the competitive world market. For its very existence, the industry needs information in areas like new technologies and processes and their application in improving quality and design of the products, reducing their cost. As a result, managements of industrial organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that knowledge is a commodity and information service is the marketing of knowledge.

It has been proved in a number of cases that efficient and effective industrial information system results in considerable savings in the areas of market research, human resource planning, and funds management besides avoidance of duplication of research.

Most of the surveys in the 1950s indicated the general impression of the employees was that literature tend to be used as a stimulant for ideas, rather than as a source of information. Library provision in different firms was also very limited and very few of them had qualified librarians. But later years show a more satisfactory situation in the provision and recognition of libraries as tools for higher productivity. Though it is difficult to prove the value of a library and information service in real monetary terms, the following few examples indicate the immense positive benefits of a library and information service.

  • Library staff of a research and development laboratory in New York saved 500 man-hours of the technical personnel by providing needed information.
  • The librarian of a Canadian company produced the necessary information from the company’s own files, which was otherwise planned to be acquired from Switzerland.

There are two ways of accounting the value of information and library. First is the extent to which the waste of funds on unnecessary duplication of work could have been avoided in a particular context if relevant and useful information had been supplied in time. Secondly, the amount of profit gained by an organization by generation of new ideas through library and information service. A few case studies quoted by Neelameghan in this context are:

  • Scientific Research: In UK due to delay in supply of information in the 1960s, the estimated cost of unintended research was Rs.21.6 million.
  • Electronics: The estimated annual cost of undetermined duplication of governmental research in the field of electronics in USA was Rs. 15 million. The cause of the waste was found to be non-availability of information on projects in progress.
  • Innovation on Man-made-Rain: An industrial firm spent a large amount of money investigating the method of artificially creating rains. After two years of work, it was found that similar research had been reported in Holland twenty years earlier. The following examples also show how timely information service saved many man-hours and resulted in savings of money:
  • The information department of the Vilnius factory provided timely information on electric techniques in 1965, which resulted in the savings of Rs.1.65 million per annum.
  • In an US company, a costly research program was stopped by the Librarian tracking an “unknown” process for nickel-plating aluminum, in a German patent.
  • In a pharmaceutical firm, the reconvening of a suppliers’ meeting involving considerable expenditure was manifested by the Librarian furnishing the needed commercial information in time.

Studies of firms, starting from cater and William (1959) of 1950s to the projects of Sappho of 1970s in UK highlighted the knowledge and information factors. Through these studies successful performance has been characterized by remarkable searches for the best technical practices and specific data on market needs and by effective decision making as the ultimate key factor.

Large organizations with good infrastructure also face problems in information management. Dasgupta (1985) mentioned the case of an oil company to drill a deep well in the lrawadely Delta and as the location was well within the tidal zone, the water would be brackish and they would need a fleet of special water carriers to carry fresh water from a great distance. However, not every tidal channel has brackish water; much depends on the relative dominance between the tidal influx and the inland discharge. A simple program of data collection showed that the adjoining channel carried fresh water throughout the year and enabled the company to stop an unnecessary Rs.I crore water carrier development program.

Sharma and Ray Chaudary (1989) cited two examples of information service saving money and also helping a company to ward off threats of prosecution for patent infringements etc. In the first case, the information department was able to save crones of rupees worth excise duty by supplying useful interpretation in excise duty registrations to a firm. In the other case, the information department saved the company from another company’s threat to sue for infringement of technology by showing prior existence of relevant information.

These were only a few examples, which highlight the importance of industrial information service. The enormous amount of information that is required by present day industrial organizations is extensive both in its diversity and volume. The industrial librarian therefore is in a position to meet the information needs of managers and other employees by monitoring, storing, retrieving and supplying the pertinent information.

Original Reference Article:

  • Dash, B., 2007. Job satisfaction and motivation among industrial library personnel of Orissa: a case study. University.

Md. Ashikuzzaman

Work at North South University Library, Bangladesh.

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