Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

General Structures, Literatures, and Problems of Libraries: Revisiting the State of Librarianship in Africa

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

General Structures, Literatures, and Problems of Libraries: Revisiting the State of Librarianship in Africa

Article excerpt

Introduction

Librarianship is a service profession whose major objective is to create increased access to available information. In performing the great task of providing relevant information librarians perform various activities. It is these activities that define what a library is. In this regard, we can define a library as an organization or institution that selects, acquires, processes, organizes, stores and disseminates information in various formats to meet the varying needs of users (Nwalo, 2009). The library also functions as a social agency and a centre for incubating national development. To this end the library is a major point of concern to serious governments since information and knowledge are the key factors in the building of national wealth.

The study aims at looking at the nature of the library, the structures in a library, the literature of librarianship and the prevailing problems of libraries. Probable solutions will equally be proffered. It is the intention of the study to bring to the fore how best to organize and manage libraries to ensure their continuous relevance in the society.

The Concept of a Library

Libraries started as store houses for books, trade documents, biographies, tracts, agreements and such documents common to the ancient world. Kings and royal people as well as religious houses were the owners of the libraries of the ancient times. Although most of the ancient libraries cannot pass for what we call a library today, they however serve the common purpose of preserving knowledge and making available information for societal development (access was highly restricted to a selected few). Organization of library resources as we now have it was not common place in the ancient libraries (Aiyebelehin, 2008).

From ancient times till this present dispensation the primary purpose of the library has not changed from that of creating access to information. Although today the library creates access to varieties of information in various formats and communicated through diverse media, the primary purpose of the library, that is, the creation of access to information has not changed. This is not to mean that the library is static, far from it. The library is a strategic organ of the society that evolves with the society.

Fourie and Dowell (2002) noted that "the story of the libraries begin with the history of the written record. The oral tradition, which relied on the memorization of history, legends, and folklore, was the form of preserving and transmitting data among people". The development started with the development of written and the associated developments. Consequently as the society began to develop, the state of the library began to improve. This thought was captured in the work of Fourie and Dowell, 2002.

Ifidon and Ifidon (2008) asserted that the retention of some of the former definitions of the library, especially those that emphasize that the library is a place where records are kept and the librarian being a custodian of records, are an aberration of what the librarianship profession is in the light of modern developments in information management. What this portends is that librarians must continually keep abreast of the modern technologies in order to retain their value and relevance in the realm of information management.

Bryson (2006) equally observed that "in the last two hundred years, western societies have transitioned through economies and societies first based on agriculture, then on industry and now on knowledge. The magnitude of these changes is such that they are called revolutions and each one has challenged the way people work, think, live and communicate". The import of the statement above is that information professionals are constantly required to do things differently in order to remain in control of the information sector especially in a world where everything revolves round information. …

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