Public Libraries in the Modern World

Public Libraries in the Modern World

M.N. Venkatesan (Anna Centenary Library, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8178-1.ch002
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Modern society has various needs such as education, research, cultural advancement, information, spiritual and ideological pursuits, pastime and recreation. Society has founded various institutions to serve these needs, among them the library occupies a prominent place; the library is able to meet all of them in equal measure. The public library is the local centre of information making all kinds of knowledge and information made available to its users. 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 group. A public library as enunciated in the UNESCO Manifesto (1994) is expected to play the libraries role in three main areas like information, education and culture. The aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of how the public libraries support and guides the digital and modern world.
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2. Libraries As Gateways To Knowledge

“In sandy soil, when deep you delve, you reach the springs below; The more you learn the freer streams of wisdom flow” (Thirukkural-396).

This Thirukkural wants to educate us by saying that water will spring from the sandy well depending upon the depth of digging; similarly the knowledge will flow from a man in proportion to his learning. In the similar way libraries acts as the Centre of Learning in all human activities have relied heavily on knowledge and information. Modern society needs in supporting the educational and research activities of society, promoting culture, disseminating information and providing recreation and making all kinds of knowledge and information readily available to its users (Pope, 2004).

A library is not a building stacked with books, it is a repository and source of information and ideas, a place for learning and enquiry, and for the generation of thought and the creation of new knowledge. Public libraries in particular have the potential to bridge the gap between the ‘information poor’ and the ‘information rich’ by ensuring that people from all sectors and settings of society and the economy across India have easy access to knowledge they seek (National Knowledge Commission, 2007). The aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of how the public libraries support and guides the digital and modern world.


3. The Public Library

Public Library is a social institution, created and maintained by the society for its benefit and progress and plays a vital role in the life of an individual and in enrichment of community life. The library service became a movement of the people, by the people and for the people; this modern concept gradually spread over India from 1800 onwards (Ranganathan, 1957). Alwin Johnson called a “Public library is largely regarded as the People’s University”. Dr. S.R. Ranganathan defined Public library as:

  • Any Library established and / or maintained by local library authority, including travelling libraries and services.

  • Any libraries open to the public free of charge and maintained ad managed by the government of by any local body

  • Any government notified by the government as a public library

UNESCO public library manifesto said that, The public library is the local gateway to knowledge, provides a basic condition for lifelong learning, independent decision-making and cultural development of the individual and social groups, 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 (UNESCO, 1994).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dr. S.R. Ranganathan: Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan was a mathematician and librarian from India. He is considered to be the father of library science in India and His birthday is observed every year as the National Library Day in India.

Thirukkural: Thirukkural is an ancient book of wisdom, the greatest classic of the Tamil language, the distillation of the essential genius of the Tamil Nadu, it consisting of 1330 couplets or Kurals and authored by Thiruvalluvar.

UNESCO: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). Its purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture. UNESCO has 195 member states and nine associate members, headquarter situated in Paris, France.

RRRLF: RRRLF is a central autonomous organization established and fully financed by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. It is the nodal agency of the Government of India to support public library services and systems and promote public library movement in the country.

National Knowledge Commission: The National Knowledge Commission is a high-level advisory body to the Prime Minister of India, with the objective of transforming India into a knowledge society. It covers sectors ranging from education to e-governance in the five focus areas of the knowledge paradigm.

BiblioTech library: BiblioTech Digital Library the world’s first bookless public library and the first all-digital public library in the United States, located in Bexar County, Texas. Since the doors of the first branch opened on September 14th, 2013.

The Connemara Public Library: Connemara Public Library at Egmore in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, is one of the four National Depository Libraries which receive a copy of all books, newspapers and periodicals published in India. Established in 1890, the library is a repository of centuries-old publications, wherein lie some of the most respected works and collections in the country. It also serves as a depository library for the UN.

National Mission on Libraries: National Mission on Libraries (NML) in India set up four working groups and after deliberating on the recommendations of the working groups formulated the scheme 'National Mission on Libraries (NML) - up gradation of libraries providing service to the public' .

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