Role of Public Libraries in Building Knowledge Society

Role of Public Libraries in Building Knowledge Society

N. Nageswari (District Central Library, Madurai, India) and R. Natarajan (Annamalai University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3559-2.ch015
OnDemand PDF Download:
List Price: $37.50
10% Discount:-$3.75


The library is a social institution. Libraries form a vital part of the world's social and educational system. They are entrusted with the responsibility of carrying knowledge to the doors of those who require it, so that it can be fruitfully utilized both by the educated and the uneducated. Knowledge is available through books, films, recordings, and other media. People in all walks of life use library resources for their day-to-day life. A public library is a social organization, supported by public funds, which provides for self-education, free information on social, economic, cultural, and recreational needs of all members of rural and urban classes of the society. It serves the public without any discrimination of caste, creed, age or gender, status, and educational attainments. It is, therefore, described as ‘People's University'. It is a democratic institution of the people, by the people, and for the people. The study reveals that the majority of the respondents, 73 (11.62%) belonging to the age group of 56-65 years visited the library to read Tamil newspapers.
Chapter Preview


The primary duty of a democratic government is, to educate its people and make them true citizens of a civilized nation. The education of the common man is very essential for the successful functioning of democracy. This can be achieved through various agencies. Public library is one such agency. It is the most valuable instrument of democracy and good citizenship. The success of democracy is measured by the rate of literacy, standard of living, mutual understanding and co-operation among the citizens. The public libraries enable the citizens of the country to the well informed to exercise their rights and in understanding the problems of the government and extend their co-operation to it in solving them. To achieve this, well-equipped and well-organized public libraries with modern technologies are very essential.

Public libraries play a vital role in the overall development of the society. Gerald Johnson, in his book entitled, Public Library Service, writes, “The quickest and easiest access to the world’s best thought is through public libraries”. Public library and society are inter-linked and interdependent. Society without libraries has no significance, and libraries without society have no origin. Early libraries were essentially archives / storage places for the preservation of records that were necessary for the transaction of business or commerce. As of now, the modern society expects man to be self-governing, truth loving and non-violente. This can be achieved through the public library, a social agency, moulding the life of the community by its resources in the form of books and periodicals and other non-book materials. Library is actually the “mind of the society”, it reflects its social aspirations. If the society has an obligation to feed, clothe and house the people comfortably, it has a similar moral obligation to educate them and to feed them with mental food through educational institutions and libraries’ respectively.

Public Library and Culture

Culture is closely related to social life. Public library is a product of society for its cultural advancement. Libraries can be called centres of cultural excellence. This is because libraries maintain records of the past. It is in the libraries that the cultural heritage of human beings is presented and passed on to posterity. The public library has to contribute to the cultural enrichment of the society by organizing extension activities like lectures, seminars, symposia, book exhibitions and cultural gatherings. Culture is passed from generation to generation either through personal contacts or through recorded knowledge. The society as a whole, or a region of it, or an era, all are found embodied in the pages of documents. The success of libraries as cultural agencies depends upon the degree of enlightenment of the community and quality of the resources and services offered. A network of quality libraries is essential to make a nation aware of its cultural heritage. Sayaojirao Gaekwad, The Pioneer of Public library movement of India, made this statement: A library is instituted to preserve the records of the deeds and thoughts of men, for the instruction and enlightenment of future generation.

Public Libraries and Communication

Libraries not only conserve our culture, but also act as agencies of communication. The power of communication of ideas is the most significant achievement in human life. Books and libraries are the most powerful means of communication. In books, achievements of life, experiences of the departed and the thoughts of saints and scholars, scientists, educationists, artists, poets and philosophers are recorded. Acquisition, accumulation and sharing of ideas through experience and passing them to fellow beings distinguish man from animals.

Public Library and Economic Development

Nations of the world are divided into rich and poor based on their strength of information. Out of many channels of information, libraries are the richest and the most economical source of information for the socioeconomic and cultural development. The establishment and the development of libraries in general and the public libraries in particular are an investment. The larger population of our country is spread over in remote villages. The prosperity of our nation depends entirely on how far we are able to improve the economic and social life of rural masses. Library service helps the rural people, in getting accurate and timely information, to adopt new technologies and it helps them to improve the quality of rural life.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Public Library: A library that is accessible by the general public and is generally funded from public sources, such as taxes. It is operated by librarians and library paraprofessionals, who are also civil servants.

User Information: Information that is transferred across the functional interface between a source user and a telecommunications system for delivery to a destination user.

Information Resources: Information resources are defined as the data and information used by an organization. Examples of information resources are databases with customer purchase information.

Information: Answer to a question of some kind. It is thus related to data and knowledge, as data represents values attributed to parameters, and knowledge signifies understanding of real things or abstract concepts.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: