Friday, December 30, 2011


A library is an agency, which engages in the collection. processing, preservation and dissemination of recorded information in the various formats most convenient to its target users (Olanlokun and Salisu, 1993). It can also be defined as a building established for the purpose of collecting and storing books and related materials for reading and research. According to Chamber's Encyclopedia. (1977) the word library which is from the Latin word “liber” signifies a place set aside for reading or reference and by extension, a collection of books. Thus a Library can also be described as a collection of books and other forms of records housed, organized and interpreted to meet broad and varying needs of the people such as information, knowledge, recreation and esthetic-values.

A public library is therefore a library that offers services to the public free of charge and it also provides educational, social and political information to people in a particular community. Generally, public libraries are accepted as a public good. In the words of Olanlokun and Salisu (1993), public libraries are libraries set up to provide free but traditional “service to everyone”. A public library serves the community and is generally referred to as a layman's library or university. The library is a service-oriented institution with set goals to be achieved within the resources made available by the parent institution, usually the government.

The public library, the local gateway to knowledge, provides a basic condition for lifelong learning, independent decision-making and cultural development of the individual and social groups.’

Public libraries are a world-wide phenomenon. They occur in a variety of societies, in differing cultures and at different stages of development. Although the varied contexts in which they operate inevitably result in differences in the services they provide, and the way those services are delivered, they normally have characteristics in common, which can be defined as follows.

A public library is an organization established, supported and funded by the community, either through local, regional or national government or through some other form of community organization. It provides access to knowledge, information and works of the imagination through a range of resources and services and is equally available to all members of the community regardless of race, nationality, age, gender, religion, language, disability, economic and employment status and educational attainment.

The Role of Public Libraries in Nigeria

Seymour (1980), says responsive library service is not simply a product of the Dewey
Decimal system but it also requires intelligent planning, ability to learn from experiences, and sensitivity to human needs. Concerned library personnel who want to provide responsive service must keep themselves constantly alert to changing library roles and ensure that library users derive maximum benefits from the services provided.

The public library is essentially a medium of education. In fact, the various roles, which the public library could play to ensure the realization of national development in Nigeria, include the following:

·         Provision of information for planning,
·         Provision of educational, information and facilities,
·         Provision of political information,
·         Undertaking Researches
·         Provision of economic documents
·         Organisation of enlightment programmes


The primary purposes of the public library are to provide resources and services in a variety of media to meet the needs of individuals and groups for education, information and personal development including recreation and leisure. They have an important role in the development and maintenance of a democratic society by giving the individual access to a wide and varied range of knowledge, ideas and opinions.


Supporting both individual and self conducted education as well as formal education at all levels.

The need for an agency available to all, which provides access to knowledge in printed and other formats to support formal and informal education, has been the reason for the foundation and maintenance of most public libraries and remains a core purpose for the public library. Throughout their lives people require education either at formal institutions, for example, schools, colleges and universities, or in a less formal context related to their employment and daily life. Learning does not end with the completion of formal education but is, for most people, a lifelong activity. In an increasingly complex society people will need to acquire new skills at various stages of their life. The public library has an important role in assisting this process. The public library should provide material in the appropriate media to support formal and informal learning processes. It should also help the user to make use of these learning resources effectively as well as providing facilities that enable people to study. The ability to access information and make effective use of it is vital to successful education and, where possible, public libraries should co-operate with other educational organizations in teaching the use of information resources. Where adequate library facilities exist to support formal education the public library should complement them rather than duplicating library provision available elsewhere.

The public library should also actively support literacy campaigns, as literacy is the key to education and knowledge and to the use of libraries and information services. Newly literate people need easy access to appropriate reading materials to maintain and develop their skills.
In some countries the need for educational development is seen to be paramount and the focus of public libraries is to support formal education. There are, however, a variety of ways in which public libraries can support both formal and informal education.

Investment in education is everywhere under scrutiny. The days are long past when a simple and direct connection was assumed between investment in education and national development (Wali, 1991). If educators are to re-affirm their commitment to education and national development, they must be able to justify their belief that education is today not only a basic human right but also an essential tool for national development. The role of public library in this regard cannot be over-emphasized.
The public library acquires books and other relevant educational materials in line with the demands and the needs of different categories of users. It makes the materials available and accessible to the users at minimal convenience. Therefore, the public library is an information agency that assists and guides its clientele in their choice of reading materials. It affords the public especially the students the opportunity to acquire learning experiences at little or no cost.
Public library also links the immediate community to the outside world as regards acquisition of knowledge. It also enriches the educational development programmes of the society by supporting continuous education programme, such as adult education programme.


The public library is the local centre of information making all kinds of knowledge and information readily available to its users.

It is a basic human right to be able to have access to and an understanding of information, and there is now more information available than ever before in the world’s history. As a public service open to all, the public library has a key role in collecting, organizing and exploiting information, as well as providing access to a wide range of information sources. The public library has a particular responsibility to collect local information and make it readily available. It also acts as a memory of the past by collecting, conserving and providing access to material relating to the history of the community and of individuals. In providing a wide range of information the public library assists the community in informed debate and decision-making on key issues. In collecting and providing information the public library should, wherever possible, co-operate with other agencies to make the best use of available resources.

The rapid growth in the volume of available information and the continuing technological changes, which have radically affected the way information is accessed, have already made a significant effect on public libraries and their services. Information is very important to the development of the individual and of society, and information technology gives considerable power to those able to access and use it. Despite its rapid growth it is not available to the majority of the world’s population, and the gap between the information rich and the information poor continues to widen. A vital role for the public library is to bridge that gap by providing public access to the Internet as well as providing information in traditional formats. Public libraries should recognize and exploit the opportunities provided by the exciting developments in information and communications technology. They have the opportunity to become the electronic gateway to the information world.

Adeyemi (1977) describes information as a basis to the life of man just as air, water, food, and shelter. Also, Stoakley (1982) notes that communication is a vital part of human life. According to him as a man develops, and his mental powers grow, the need for him to communicate complex ideas and feelings also develops. Therefore the provision of adequate and timely information is vital to the successful completion of every human endeavour, especially educational programme. With the development of civilization there is a need to transmit concepts more widely than is possible through the medium of the human voice and memory. Information on various aspects of literacy programmes in Nigeria abounds in journal publications and such is in form of research reports and bulletins. Libraries have the capabilities to identify and acquire library materials through purchase and exchanges. This type of information is needed by adult educators, community workers, researchers, politicians, educational planners, teachers, supervisors, evaluators, and civil servants who are involved in the educational development programmes. These resources should not only be acquired and made available; they should be professionally organized so that library users spend less time trying to locate relevant information from them.

Personal development

Providing opportunities for personal creative development. The opportunity to develop personal creativity and pursue new interests is important to human development. To achieve this, people need access to knowledge and works of the imagination. The public library can provide access, in a variety of different media, to a rich and varied store of knowledge and creative achievement, which individuals cannot acquire on their own behalf. Providing access to major collections of the world’s literature and knowledge, including the community’s own literature, has been a unique contribution of the public library and is still a vitally important function.

Access to works of the imagination and knowledge is an important contribution to personal education and meaningful recreational activity. The public library can also make a fundamental contribution to daily survival and social and economic development by being directly involved in providing information to people in developing communities; for example, basic life skills, adult basic education and AIDS awareness programmes. In communities with a high illiteracy rate the public library should provide services for non-literates and interpret and translate information where necessary. It should also provide basic user education.

Children and young people

Creating and strengthening reading habits in children from an early age.

The public library should attempt to meet the needs of all groups in the community regardless of age and physical, economic or social circumstances. However, it has a special responsibility to meet the needs of children and young people. If children can be inspired by the excitement of knowledge and by works of the imagination at an early age, they are likely to benefit from these vital elements of personal development throughout their lives, both enriching them and enhancing their contribution to society. Children can also encourage parents and other adults to make use of the library. It is also important that young people who experience difficulty in learning to read should have access to a library to provide them with appropriate material

Political Role of Public Library

Doctor (1985) defines politics as listening to various groups, reconciling conflicting interests as far as possible, and thus creating a sense* of security and participation among members of the society.

The public library disseminates information on the various political programmes in the society. It is regarded as a public relation institution. Political information is an essential component of national development. Public library is next to the radio and the television stations where government passes information to the general public in various forms. It also provides political orientation and culture through the provision of information on government's policies. It is generally accepted as a public good in terms of political information.

Economic Role of Public Library

Cassel (1994) defines economics as the science of the production and distribution of wealth, the condition of a country, community or individual, with regard to material prosperity. In economic classification, the establishment of a library is regarded as a social service. This is an investment, which does not produce a tangible good. However, public libraries play important role in the economic well being of the society as it provides information on goods and services. It also distributes books and film within the state. Public library at this level is making its contributions to the economic development of the modern society. Public libraries could also develop local economic capabilities by making available necessary information on income generating projects, self employment activities, credit facilities, state assistance schemes, schemes, etc. Therefore public library closely identifies itself with the aspiration of economic development of a nation.

Research Role of Public Library

Research is seen as a diligent and careful inquiry or investigation, systematic study of phenomena, and a scientific investigation (Cassel, 1994). It encourages the habit of personal and individual investigation and research, develops skills and resourcefulness in the use of books and other library materials. According to Dorothy (1977), public library facilitates scientific studies, teaching and self-learning process. It also acts as a repository of knowledge and thereby stores and disseminates materials of research values in the modern society. Public library serves as a stock to the society and it compiles bibliographies, on various aspects such as subjects, authors, and title.

Public libraries and cultural development

An important role of the public library is providing a focus for cultural and artistic development in the community and helping to shape and support the cultural identity of the community. This can be achieved by working in partnership with appropriate local and regional organizations, by providing space for cultural activity, organizing cultural programmmes and by ensuring that cultural interests are represented in the library’s materials. The library’s contribution should reflect the variety of cultures represented in the community. It should provide materials in the languages spoken and read in the local community, and support cultural traditions.

The social role of the public library

The public library has an important role as a public space and meeting place. This is particularly important in communities where there are few places for people to meet. It is sometimes called ‘the drawing room of the community’. Use of the library for research and for finding information relating to the user’s education and leisure interests, brings people into informal contact with other members of the community. Using the public library can be a positive social experience.

An agency for change

In carrying out its role in these key areas the public library is acting as an agency for social and personal development and can be a positive agency for change in the community. By providing a wide range of materials to support education and by making information accessible to all, the public library can bring economic and social benefits to individuals and to the community. It contributes to the creation and maintenance of a well–informed and democratic society and helps to empower people in the enrichment and development of their lives and that of the community in which they live. The public library should be aware of the issues that are being discussed within the community and provide information that will inform that debate.

Access for all

A fundamental principle of the public library is that its services must be available to all and not directed to one group in the community to the exclusion of others. Provision should be made to ensure services are equally available to minority groups who for some reason are not able to use the mainstream services, for example, linguistic minorities, people with physical and sensory disabilities or those living in remote communities who are unable to reach library buildings. The level of funding, development of services, the design of libraries and their opening hours should all be planned with the concept of universal access as a basic principle.

The development of collections should also be based on the principle of access for all and include access to formats appropriate to specific client groups, for example, Braille and talking books for blind people. Information and communications technology should be used to allow access to the library’s collections and those of other information sources, both from within the library or from remote sites.

Local needs

Public libraries are locally based services for the benefit of the local community and should provide community information services. The services and collections they provide should be based on local needs, which should be assessed regularly. Without this discipline the public library will get out of touch with those it is there to serve and will, as a result, not be used to its full potential. Librarians should, therefore, be aware of the changes in society arising from such factors as social and economic development, demographic change, variations in the age structure, levels of education, patterns of employment and the emergence of other educational and cultural providers.

Local culture

The public library should be a key agency in the local community for the collection, preservation and promotion of local culture in all its diversity. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, for example, the maintenance of local history collections, exhibitions, storytelling, publishing of items of local interest and developing interactive programmes on local themes. Where the oral tradition is an important method of communication the public library should encourage its continuation and development.

Missions of the Public Library

Missions of the public library. The following key missions which relate to information, literacy, education and culture should be at the core of public library services:

·         creating and strengthening reading habits in children from an early age;
·         supporting both individual and self conducted education as well as formal education at all levels;
·         providing opportunities for personal creative development;
·         stimulating the imagination and creativity of children and young people;
·         promoting awareness of cultural heritage, appreciation of the arts, scientific achievements and innovations;
·         providing access to cultural expressions of all performing arts;
·         fostering inter-cultural dialogue and favouring cultural diversity;
·         supporting the oral tradition;
·         ensuring access for citizens to all sorts of community information;
·         providing adequate information services to local enterprises, associations and interest groups;
·         facilitating the development of information and computer literacy skills;
·         supporting and participating in literary activities and programmes for all age groups, and initiating such activities if necessary.

Information and Referral Services

Information and referral services guide people to sources of information and to agencies capable of handling problems and questions. Libraries participating in information and referral services generally have a referral network and a calendar of community events. Libraries are at forefront in providing information and referral services in rural areas.

Outreach Programmes

These are organized to meet the information needs of the rural population. The objectives are awareness of library and information resources, and the creation of a reading habit among rural dwellers. According to Boyce and Boyce (1995), library outreach programmes are a way to distribute library services across large and sparsely-populated rural areas. Distance learning and other educational programmes can also be extended to rural areas. A well-planned library outreach programme can improve the quality of life in rural areas.

Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI)

To effectively render SDI service, the librarian must have a profile of the client. When the information needs of the rural population are identified, such service will be relevant to them. Nigeria is a developing country where the majority of the population lives in rural areas. The majority of these rural dwellers are either non-literate or semi-literate. Libraries exist to serve as many people as possible, disseminating information, preserving culture, and contributing to intellectual and social life. Therefore, information pertaining to fishing and farming activities of rural areas needs to be repackaged in local languages and disseminated to all of categories of users.

Rural Library Services

For rural development to make a strong impact on the lives of its people, they will need to be provided with the essential materials and technical support that match their needs and cater to their areas of interest. Since the rural communities are farming communities, information on how to improve their farms and means through which they can improve their farming techniques should be provided for them in a format they will understand (Aboyade, 1990). Information on modem farm practices and chemicals that will improve their farm yields should be in a language that they most understand, with pictorial articles showing how such can be applied to their farms. These articles or information could be in pamphlets or shown to them through audiovisual aids. The audiovisual aspect has the advantage of combining both vision and sound especially for the demonstration of modem farm techniques.

Though information officers and librarians may not be agriculturalists, because of their professional background, they are usually equipped to provide technical information services to experts in other fields using the language they understand most. In providing agricultural extension services, librarians may need to adopt canvassing or mobile libraries to bring library services to the doorsteps of the farmers in the rural areas. Nwalo (2003) points out that the collections carried by mobile libraries reflect the requests previously made and the perceived need of the local communities where there are service stations. This will provide multiple services to rural communities and help the individual patrons of the library attain maximum information services, irrespective of their callings. Agricultural extension information services (AEIS) are carried to the individual farms and houses as a way of encouraging them to seek and utilize such information to improve farm yields and ultimately their standard of living.

Library Services for Peace and Unity

Food security is one of the monsters that target many developing countries of the world. With the majority of people in this part of the world as farmers, there is an urgent need to save the rural communities through the provision of an adequate infrastructure. Such a system would support food and cash crop production for domestic consumption and export (bring foreign funds for development of the country). It is pertinent to note that most of the rural communities are border towns. Rural people should be enlightened on the importance of the country's sovereignty and (they should be on alert) on the damaging effects of intolerance of neighboring brothers. If the rural communities are at peace, the rest of the country will also enjoy peace because they are the majority. The library must wake up from its traditional role by imbibing ideas and services that will have direct and relevant bearing on the citizenry.


Libraries in the past used to be temples of knowledge - knowledge generally reserved only for the few. Today, ICT provides a means of reverting this paradigm, not only by providing access to information, but also by disseminating information and fostering interaction. It enlarges the scope of acquisition, processing, organization and dissemination of information and knowledge; it raises speed, reduces cost and over comes space, time, language and media barriers. The librarians in academic and research institutions have to apply the tools and techniques of ICT to meet the changing requirements of the users by innovating its procedures and systems.

Several definitions have been given to explain and interpret the acronym ICT and the one given below seems to be the closest: ‘ICTs is a generic term referring to technologies that are used for collecting, storing, editing and passing on (communicating) information in various forms.’

1.      Tools of ICT:- 
1)    Computer
2)    Internet
3)    Digital camera
4)    Webcam
5)    Smart Card
6)    Scanner
7)    E-Book
8)    Printer
9)    Electronic Journals
11) Animation
12) E-Mail
13) CDROM.
14) DVD
15)  RFID Technologies

1.      ICT Based Library Activities:-

1)        Data Processing: - Data processing is any process that uses a computer program to summaries, analyze or otherwise convert data into usable information. The process may be automated and run on a computer. In the data processing we can do Data Entry, Data Coding, Data Transformation, Data Translation, Data Summarization, Data Aggregation, Data Validation, Data Tabulation, Statistical Analysis, Computer graphics, Data Warehousing, Data Mining

2)        Circulation: - A circulation department is one of the key departments of a library.It provides lending services and facilities for return of loaned items. Renewal of materials and payment of fines are also handled at the circulation desk. Circulation staff may provide basic search and reference services, to library users.

3)        Cataloguing: - Online cataloging has greatly enhanced the usability of catalogs, OPACs have enhanced usability over traditional card formats The online catalog does not need to be sorted statically; the user can choose author, title, keyword, or systematic order dynamically.  Most online catalogs offer a search facility for any word of the title is reached even better.

4)        Bibliography: - Bibliographic Service Compilation of bibliographies, reading lists and state-of-art reports are very parts of LIS work, particularly in research and academic libraries. Browsing through bibliography database in electronic form on CDROM or online, offers convenient, efficient and cost effective information retrieval. Bibliography databases also provide unique search features such as searching on multiple criteria (key-word, subject, author, source, classification code, year of publication, language etc.), and variety of display formats & styles.

5)    Prepared in house database: - A library is a collection of sources, resources, and services, and the structure in which it is housed it is organized by the library for the use of library members.  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, librarians, who are experts at finding and organizing information and at interpreting information needs.

1.      Library Services through ICT:-

1)        CD Rom Searching: - The CD-ROMs coming along with books are assigned accession numbers and are kept at the computer section to be issued to the users to get information whenever needed. Library has also subscribed to CD ROM database provides for online Access.

2)        On-line Networking: - Networking is one of the most effective ways of serving users’ needs comprehensively. Networked access to databases would help get newly-published information to library users.

3)        Photocopying:  The technology of reprography made a big impact on the document delivery system. Most of the research libraries have reprographic machines and provide photocopy of any document on demand.

4)        On-line Information Service: - Online Information services are anticipatory or responsive. Both these services promote the use of library materials, make available library materials to users and thus meet user requirements. The various services include Newspaper clippings, Abstracting/Indexing Services, Current awareness services, translation services, referral services, photocopying services and Computerized services.

5)        News Clipping Scanning service: - Newspaper Constitute an important source of Information as they contain the latest information in the form of news with, often daily, updating. Print media is useful for research needs but many organization and individuals are turning to online newspaper clipping services and some are organization do this by their library.

6)        On-line Reservation Service: - The Online Reservation Service allows you to reserve books and journals which are on order, being processed by the Library or on loan to another reader.  User can place a reservation at the Issue or Information Support Desk using the request option on the on-line catalogue.

7)    Database Searching Service:-
Through this service, we regularly provide the users with the exact information they need, depending on their interest profile, from our collection of major national and international databases (retrospective and current) on our subject. The databases are in CD ROM or computerized form which saves their valuable time and energy, as the information available here is pinpointed and readily accessible.

8)  Audio-Visual Service: - Audiovisual materials are important sources of information, education and entertainment. Many libraries particularly media libraries and large academic and public libraries hold audio visual material such as DVD, films, pictures and photographs etc. Libraries allow their members to borrow these. Recent developments in storage media, compression and encryption technology have made it possible to store large amount of multimedia documents on hard disk and disseminate through internet.

9)    Internet Access: - The use of the Internet around the world has been growing rapidly over the last decade. Libraries provide free or controlled access to internet and email. Depending upon the availability users can be given time slots for use of internet facility. Usually internet enabled terminals are provided in the library that can be used for internet access and email etc.

10)  E-Query Services: - E-Query Service is a Web-enabled contemporary reference service offered to the registered members of the Library together handle queries received in person or by e-Mail. E-Queries may sometimes need to be followed-up with telephone, fax, regular mail, or personal interactions. Library, appropriate and brief information gathered in response will be sent to the enquirer through e-Mail within three consecutive working days from the date of receipt of the query. 

The benefits that can be derived from electronic libraries which are hooked to the internet as follows:

• Quick and convenient information exchange.
• Access to experienced and expert individuals in thousands of fields.
• Access to regular updates on topics of interest;
• Enhancement of team work, access to geographical distances;
• Access to archives information;
• Transfer of data between machines and provide a great platform to have fun and entertainment;
• As a reference tool, the internet provides a wealth of up to date resources unavailable in bound volumes;
• The internet gives personal access to specialization and experts in hundreds of disciplines;
• It enables you to reach your fellow librarians with messages and documents independent of the constraints of mails, telegraphs or even fax.
• One can collect news and facts which can be stored in one’s computer for later use in reference;
• Resources in the internet allows libraries to provide better services to their patrons by giving on-line access to information that would be difficult to locate in any other manners
• The internet provides access to on-line catalogues for libraries very close to or on another continent and it gives access to bibliographic records of millions of books and the details of the holdings of academic and research libraries around the world;
• Electronic journals and newsletters are made available on a regular basis;
• Libraries can make the selection of books required in their institutions and order them without going from one bookshop or publisher to another;
• The Computer Read Only Memory (CD ROM) is another versatile facility made available in academic libraries through the presence of information technology.

This wide range of benefits from information technology facilities discussed above are the hallmarks of the electronic libraries of this age.


Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play an important role in enhancing efficiency in development of Library service. ICT is changing the work of libraries and information centers. More than ever, the libraries of India need this technology. An increased number of users, a greater demand for library materials, an increase in the amount of material being published, new electronic formats and sources, and the development of new and cheaper computers are some of the reasons for the growing need for ICT in India. Librarians, library patrons and supporters, and, above all, must help develop ICT-based libraries to meet the changing demands of the users.


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