Libraries Changing Role of Libraries Changing Role Research Paper

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Changing Role of Libraries

Changing Role of Libraries in Today's Society

Changing Role of Libraries in Today's Society

Changing Role of Libraries in Today's Society

From the time when the recorded history began, all kinds of artifacts of symbolic, religious, social, and educational have been assembled together and protected in the libraries in the form of books and documents. Sumerians were the one who developed and brought into actual formation of a library. People of Mesopotamia, several millennia before, revolutionized the means of communication by using symbols and pictures which represented specific units of speech. According to Derrida (1996), the humans have undergone an "archive fever" which means the urge to preserve all kinds of information regarding the history, facts, experiences of people, etc. This impulse gave rise to libraries like temple libraries which contained organized and arranged books and this was done by trained personnel. Libraries in the past and even now have been the preserving place for printed material in the form of books, documents, maps, folders etc. Along with printed material, libraries also contain visual and audio artifacts which are considered important by the society.

Libraries play an important part in educational institutions even now, and contain in abundance, text material, technology, literacy material etc. The role of librarian since the inception of libraries has been to archive, organize, searching the card catalog, mediate and distribute the various forms of texts and artifacts to people to come to visit the library. These basic roles and responsibilities of a librarian have not changed until two decades before (Bennett, 2006). The role of librarians changed when the sole print-based managements system of text added technology to it.


With the rise of digital technology, a discussion regarding the existence of the library is in the ascendant. Some have said that a digital library will replace a real library, buildings, facilities, printed collections, and librarians will disappear, while others advocated that libraries should promote their roles in various aspects and enhance their importance. Academic libraries, for instance, must pay more attention to the activities related to students' learning needs. In this sense, academic libraries have evolved into a place comprising social and technological components. Libraries have to show that they have the ability to be used in extreme technological environments to come (Bennett 2006). As a learning place on campus the library is located in a central area and occupies a large space. For a long time the library building has had both substantial functions and symbolic meaning, as a place in which people enjoy reading, check instrumental data, use Internet computers, and at the same time appreciate artwork and heritage, and meditate.

Nowadays more and more teachers and students also use libraries to discuss and share thoughts with each other. The libraries have become "a forum for students to collaborate, enjoy fellowship, engage in healthy debate, create and challenge ideas, and experience learning and discovery in a multitude of meaningful ways. Good design supports these activities" (Shill, Tonner, 2003). Throughout the world, countries spend billions of dollars on new and renovated libraries for educational institutions. What sort of places are these? When we look at university students' learning behaviors we may gain an idea about how their learning experiences in an advanced technological environment are improved when electronic resources are considered imperative for learning (Van Orsdel, Born. 2002). Academic libraries play an important role because they have a lot advantages over the virtual ones. They were basically designed as a repository to gather access and protect print collections. The libraries were designed and planned in such a way that the main concern was to preserve the materials and to provide it to people with efficiency properly making the catalogs and labeled sections (Freeman 2005).

But things have changed in the past two decades. Shill and Tonner (2003) conducted a survey regarding the academic library projects done across the U.S. during the time between 1995 and 2002. These projects were fairly evenly divided between new buildings and expansions and renovations, and the number of completions was reasonably stable over the period. There was a significant general enlargement in the size of the library. The authors point out that the majority of the libraries were situated in regions where the students came frequently. An obvious inclination was not seen towards significant inclusion of other divisions in library facilities. It was found that few libraries occupied space in buildings constructed mainly for additional reasons. The foremost impetus for constructing and enlarging libraries in the last two decades was to offer additional shelving for printed materials (Bennett 2003). Now, however, the key issues regarding library space are no longer size and budget. Instead, the issue is the influence of the newly created space in the library on the users' learning motivation, attitude, and behavior.

Changing Role of Libraries

Impact of Technology

The debate concerning the impact of technology on the role of libraries continues. How long will it be before libraries disappear, when there are signs that many librarians are ready to discard printed materials for good (Van Orsdel & Born 2002)? When asked the questions regarding the need of libraries when everything is going digital, the respondents tended to answer in the negative, because the educational institutions needed more space to enhance their strategic aims and objectives (Weise & Tooey 1999). Bazillion and Braun (2001) assert that the whole educational mission is the basis when designing and building a library. Library administration and designers should rethink this. According to Himmelfarb, "libraries are in the throes of a revolution" (Himmelfarb, 1997), "Bazillion (2001) sees this revolution as a result of "the convergence of several recent developments in education." He summarizes these developments:

1. The introduction of internet-based teaching and learning has revived the teacher's knowledge and enhanced participation of the students in learning;

2. The changing role of librarians as educationalists of the new technology;

3. Changes in the design and geography of the libraries in the last ten years;

4. The taking up of worldwide computer-access softwares by various educational institutions.

A Web-enhanced library catalogue, offering access to full-text materials via electronic resources, is a good example of Web-enhanced information gathering, which also includes e-books, e-journals, and items via the interlibrary loan service. The new libraries which have integrated technology in them have become popular amongst students since they enable the students to study in the form of groups using applications like Web 2.0 (Beard & Dale 2009).

The movement of publishers toward putting digitized tomes online for purchase, rental, download or storage may force a change in the nature of circulating libraries (Shapiro & Varian 1999). Their changing role in the digital era finds libraries not just in the business of book lending, but also in the commerce of offering rights to use, counsel, instruction, and concrete help to their users (Bazillion 2001). Moreover, the development of online courses will certainly influence the architecture of library buildings. To perform most effectively in these courses, students come to the library to be educated in relevant skills in the use of computers and Internet facilities, and to obtain advice about reference materials that can be found in the library.

Librarians still have duties to instruct students in information literacy. Librarians dealing with specific subjects have been working with academics in the past (Dale et al. 2006), and now it is time that they must create latest coalitions with other contemporaries to become new learning technologists (Kope 2006). Although it is difficult to predict how exactly technology might shape library space, more and more libraries have provided technology-supported group study rooms and project development spaces, which have been constructed to be effortlessly responsive to current technological advancements. In this easy to access and communicate learning environment, energetic group discussions and intense conversations accompany learning and sharing (Freeman 2005). Library design must take into account all such issues that might affect library use. In this sense, technology is certainly a giant factor.

Today's students belong to what Oblinger and Oblinger (2005) have called the internet generation. They are not only experienced with Web browsing and usage, but also can work simultaneously using material combinations like laptops, print volumes and mobile phones, and are pleased to work in technology- rich spaces -- such as the "techno booths" provided at Bournemouth University (Beard & Dale 2009). There are even those who question whether, with off-site, full-time access to subscribed databases and an Internet resource, a library is even needed for the campus. Many libraries have cancelled print journal subscriptions in favor of electronic versions (Montgomery & King 2002). Bennett (2006) suggests that the main advantage the digital libraries offer is time, and queries why anyone would wish to abandon this productivity gain by entering a library building. Frischer (2005) reports that the UCLA research library has placed the digital catalogue of its collection online, removed the card catalogue, and are using the space regained for computer workstations. So far, only a few libraries have…[continue]

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