Role of Library in Society

1.1 Introduction: In modem societies, every human activity is organized through institutions. Every major social task, whether economic performance or health care, education or research, business or industry is institutionalized. The protection of the environment or defense is today invariably entrusted to institutions and organizations. Libraries and other similar types of institutions are those that collect, stock, process, organize, disseminate and distribute information/knowledge recorded in documents. Since knowledge and information are so vital for all round human development, libraries and other institutions that handle and manage knowledge and information are indeed invaluable. In this Unit, you are introduced to the important role that libraries play in the educational process of formal and non-formal learning, in research and development, in cultural activities, in spiritual and ideological realms, in recreation and entertainment, etc. With spectacular advances in information technologies and increasing categories of users and their information needs in different situations, modern society is heading towards an information society in which the central instrument of change, force and direction of change are knowledge and information. All these ideas are discussed at some length in this Unit. Assimilation of these ideas is essential for you to get a full appreciation of the role of libraries. This will enable you to develop a proper insight into professional practice and performance. In the succeeding sections of this Unit, we shall discuss how the library plays its role.

Library Building

1.2 Needs of Modern Society: As members of the modern society, we are all aware of its varied needs. Education is perhaps the most important among them, for it helps to mould a well informed, knowledgeable and responsible citizen who alone will be able to contribute to progress and advancement. Then there is the goal of the economic well being of society. Activities towards this end have to be sustained by technological developments brought about by research and the enormous amount of information it makes available to us. But ‘man does not live “by bread alone”. There are deeper and finer instincts in the human being such as the spiritual and ideological instincts, cultural and aesthetic instincts and others which refine life and elevate it to a higher plane. A person also needs recreation during his/her leisure time, and unless there are facilities for constructive and competitive activities, his/her attention is likely to be diverted to negative and destructive avenues. The aim should be the development of a society that is able to lead a cultured, prosperous and fu)d life, laying emphasis on certain basic values in life and adhering to them. It is the collective responsibility of members of society to make suitable arrangements for this purpose.

1.3 Institutions Founded by Society: It is for the purpose of discharging this important responsibility that society has, over a long period of its existence, founded various institutions. Educational institutions like schools, colleges and universities, research institutions, cultural institutions, institutions of fine arts and recreation, business and industrial establishments and a host of others are some examples of such social institutions. The library is also one such institution. But, unlike the other institutions each of which concentrates on one or a few of the needs of society, the library is able to serve almost all its needs. If you are a student of a school, your primary task is the acquisition of knowledge prescribed for that level. And this will be mainly through oral communication from the teacher supplemented by the reading of a few prescribed text books. But in the library you are exposed to books on a variety of themes – books that will give you knowledge, bring to surface your latent aesthetic talents, stimulate your intellect, inculcate values and learning skills in you, provide you with recreation and so on. Therefore, of all the institutions founded by the society, it is the library and its modern cognates that are the most potent in meeting the multifarious needs of different users of modern society.

1.4 Library and Education:

Briefly speaking education aims at

  • (i) the imparting of knowledge and skills;
  • (ii) the inculcation of values; and
  • (iii) the imparting of vocational skills.

There is both formal and non-formal education. Formal education is the one that an individual attains by enrolling himself in an educational institution like a school or a college or a university and through constant teacher-student contacts. In non-formal education there is no such institutional base for education; you educate yourself through courses offered by distance education mode, with the help of either other methods of learning or through self-study.

1.4.1 Formal Education: Every institution of formal education, be it a school, a college or a university, should have a library attached to it. It should have a collection of books relevant to its courses of study. Students should be encouraged to read books and imbibe the knowledge contained in them. At the earlier stages of education like the school, this should be done to supplement classroom teaching. At later stages, particularly in colleges and universities, the focal point of learning should gradually shift from the classroom to the library. It is through the extensive reading of a variety of books bearing on a subject that a student will be able to acquire in-depth knowledge of the subject. By being able to analyze and compare different viewpoints as expounded in different books, a student will be able to develop his capacity for analytical and critical thinking. This will enable him to formulate independent viewpoints and opinions. The role of the library in fostering the intellectual development of students cannot be over-emphasized.

Apart from school, college and university libraries, the public libraries to have a responsibility to support formal education. For this purpose, the public library must stock books and other material of an academic nature suitable for students and teachers of educational institutions in its area and make the books, etc., available to them. It must be remembered in this context that a public library should serve everyone in its community and it should not ignore the requirements of teachers and students who form part of the community.

1.4.2 Non-Formal Education: In non-formal education where the help of the teacher is minimal, it is the library that is the main resource. Students here have, by and large, to acquire knowledge through self-study. Libraries of formal educational institutions as well as public libraries have a significant role to play in this respect: The former should throw open their facilities to students of non-formal education in such a manner that the interests of their primary clientele are not adversely affected. Universities, as the bodies that lay down academic standards and conduct examinations in the field of higher education; have a special responsibility in this regard. They should try to make their library services reach as wide a clientele as possible including students of non-formal education. One way to make this possible is to establish branch libraries of the main university library at different places within its jurisdiction and making them accessible to the entire academic community in the area including students of non-formal education.

But the main responsibility of supporting non-formal education rests with the public library system. Everyone should have access as a matter of right to the public library. A public library should try to discharge this responsibility by acquiring books and journals suited to the needs of the students of non-formal education in its area. The development of a sound public library system is an essential pre-requisite for the successful implementation of all non-formal educational programmes.

If the library needs of the students of non-formal education are not met by academic and public libraries, the result would be that the students would take to cheap guide books. The inevitable consequence of this substitute will be a steep fall in the standards of education.

1.4.3 Education of Illiterates: If one is an illiterate person, do you think that he/she is unable to get the benefits of education? Not at all. Literacy is only a means of education, not education -itself. It is, no doubt, the most important means, and not having it is a serious handicap. But we have today many other effective means that modern technology has brought into existence. The audio-visual media, especially the video tape, have made it possible for education to be brought to your doorstep. It is a special responsibility of the public library to work for the education of the illiterate people in its community through. such media: It should also organise learning clubs and other programmes of oral communication for educating its illiterate clientele.

In India where illiteracy is as high as 47.79 % (according to the 1991 census), this responsibility assumes great importance and vast dimensions. The public library’s important role in this regard and the need to prepare it adequately to discharge its role should never be lost sight of

1.4.4 Education of Working Groups: The library has an educational role in another sense also. It should stock books relevant to the needs of people engaged in different vocations in its area. By reading such books they will become better informed and educated in their areas of work and will be able to increase their work efficiency. This will lead to greater productivity. The public library has to play a contributory role here also.

1.4.5 Education of Physically Handicapped: The establishment of educational institutions for physically handicapped persons is a special and mandatory responsibility of society and the government. Appropriate learning and teaching materials are acquired by these types of institutions, such as books and other types of learning kits for the blind, in addition to other physical facilities. Libraries attached to these institutions have the responsibility of stocking these types of library material and help these unfortunate persons use them and thus get them educated and rehabilitated in society.

1.5 Role of Library in Research:

Supporting research is yet another important role of the library. Access to existing knowledge and information is essential for research. The knowledge that is newly created is primarily communicated through journals, research reports and other similar publications: Every library attached to an institution engaged in research should have a strong collection of such publications to support research programmes. The libraries attached to universities, research organisations and research and development wings of industrial establishments play the key role in this respect. However, no library is without a research function in some form. Even public libraries have a research role especially in the social sciences and humanities.

1.6 Role of Library in Cultural Activities:

The first cultural role of the library is that it preserves the cultural heritage of the human race as represented by the books and other documents it holds. It has also a cultural role in two other senses. It should make available books which would bring to expression the creative talent- of individuals and develop their faculties for aesthetic appreciation. It should also organise cultural programmes like music concerts, dances, dramas, painting competitions for children, exhibition of paintings, etc. and thus enrich the cultural life of the community. These programmes primarily fall in the domain of public libraries.

1.7 Role of Library in Disseminating Information:

Libraries, through their books, are actually repositories of information and knowledge. Information is indispensable for any human activity aiming at social progress. The researcher, the teacher, the student, the administrator, the industrial and business manager, the artisan, the entrepreneur, the farmer, the worker in the factory and the field, all need the information to equip, themselves better for the fruitful pursuit of their respective vocations. The basic information role of the library is to collect material containing information through appropriate methods.

It is primarily in this sense that a library is described as an information centre. But a library also has an information role in the sense of providing information relating to the socio-economic needs of the people. A library can stock career information books and help those who are on – the lookout for a career in a particular field. Similarly, well-produced “how-to-do-it” type of books would be helpful in providing guidance to youngsters wanting to start some enterprise. In short, a library should be so equipped and organised that it will be able to serve its community with all types of information that may be in actual or potential demand.

1.8 Role of the Library in Religious and Spiritual Institutions:

Books can be broadly divided into three categories – books of information, books of recreation and books of inspiration. Spiritual and religious books, books that propound ideological themes and other books of permanent value which may be described as classics are books of inspiration. They meet the spiritual, religious and ideological needs of their readers. Every library should have a representative collection of books of this type to inspire people to high ideals in life and inculcate values in them.

1.9 Role of the library in recreation and leisure:

The healthy use of leisure is a matter of great importance in community life so that leisure time is not devoted to negative and destructive activities. The library should cater to the recreational needs of its users by stocking books suited for the purpose. Novels and other forms of literature, works of art, books of travels, biographies, popular magazines, etc., are primarily books of recreation and they should have a place in every library. Besides, libraries, especially public libraries, should organise programmes of healthy recreation and entertainment like the performing arts, musical concerts, etc.,

1.10 Library and Modern Society: The role of Library in Society:

Library and society are inter-linked and inter-dependent with each others. Society without libraries has no significance, and libraries without society have no origin. To serve as a vehicle of social progress, the library plays a vital role :

  • To assemble, organize, preserve, socialize, and serve all expressed thought embodied as manuscripts, books, periodicals, their constituents documents, however minute, and every other similar document produced as a means for communication; and by this means;
  • To help in the transmission of knowledge of the earlier generations tothe later ones; and by this mean;
  • To help in cumulation and further building up of knowledge from generation to generation; and in a similar way;
  • To help in the contemporary development of knowledge, by the unintended and purposeless repetition of effort and the consequent wastage in the research potential of humanity; and further
  • To conserve the research time of humanity by the separation of literature search from positive search; and also
  • To help in the perpetual self-education of one and all; and further
  • To collect together all available recorded information particularly in the form of reference books, and to socialize and serve freely all such information to each according to his needs at the moment; and by all such mean
  • To increase the economic resources of humanity to the extent necessary to maintain the ever-increasing population, in comfort and free from want of any kind; and also
  • To help in the mutually co-operating, and mutually tolerant peaceful co-existence of individuals, communities, and nations; and further
  • To help in the elevating, self-dependent use of leisure with the aid of freely served books, pictures, sound records, and other similar materials; and also
  • To help in increasing the opportunity for the spiritual awakening of one and all the members of humanity.

This Article Collected From:

  • Role of Libraries and Information Centres in Modern Society. (2017). Retrieved from http://egyankosh.ac.in/handle/123456789/33044

Declaration: Articles shared in this blog are collected from different sources available on the internet to help students of Library and Information Science. Sources are mentioned in the reference section of the article. If you have any objections about the content of this blog, feel free to contact the site admin at media24xnew@gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Role of Library in Society

  1. in tanzanian people not yet understanding the importance of library .i was graduate at national library college but the opportunity of employment also is big challenges to the gorvement ina tanzania

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