Library Role in Community Building

Needed more than ever in the digital age

Kami Garcia, an American writer, has said in her book (Beautiful Creatures) that “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future”. Considering this quote, I thought deeply about the importance of libraries in societies. We must establish more libraries to extend justice to society. As society grows alarmingly, their need for information also grows.

Undoubtedly, the library plays a pivotal role in the society where we live, communicate and transfer our knowledge from generation to generation. The library provides access to a vast range of information and resources, fosters literacy and education, and supports people’s lifelong learning services. It serves as a community hub and a great source of social interactions and cultural activities.

Libraries ensure equitable access and preserve cultural heritage. They empower societies with enriching knowledge and research education. They help promote educational resources for the general public, provide access to vast information, and offer free public access to books, among other things.

Libraries are needs of the day; without them, no society can grow in the right direction. R. David Lankes, a professor and Director of South Carolina Library, rightly said, “Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities.”

In today’s era of information technology, libraries grant access to digital media and offer internet services to support the research needs of their community members. The library also helps youngsters search for jobs; as every library acquires newspapers daily, which help them find jobs that interest them. It organizes educational programs like book talks and author’s discussions and invites industrial experts to empower the youth with their robust jobs. The library provides equitable information access to all community members without caste, creed and educational background. It also bridges the digital divide of society; those who take an interest in printed books are using these books for study purposes, and those who are interested in online access are also using them. It helps the members to keep them in safe and quiet study spaces. Every library has a specific corner for academic scholars.

Libraries provide professional development courses to its youngster community members and serve the children’s programmes. In the covid-19 era, libraries worldwide offered health information programmes for their community members and invited eminent health specialists to inform the local community on using different preventive measures.

The library is a great hub of government information. The performance of different ministries can be found in the libraries, such as economic surveys, educational budgets, population statistics, and so on. Modern libraries provide material in local languages and resources in multilingual formats like Chinese, Russian, Persian, and so many others. It preserves the local history archives as well as the history of other states for the decision-making process. Many libraries organize environmental awareness programs like reducing smog, Eco-friendly workshops, water conservations, energy conservation programmes, greenhouse movements, and community gardens.

Modern libraries invite specialized groups of online programming like how to earn through e-commerce; it empowers the youth to make their livelihood in an online environment if they fail to find their jobs at the local level. They educate the students to join the cryptocurrency programmes, Amazon, Shopify and too many other sources, which inspire them to contribute to the government remittances.  They also train youngsters with robust technologies like AI, the Internet of Things, Augmented and Virtual realities, and such like. Modern libraries organize programmes for their community members named Makerspace. Under this program, experts from different disciplines encourage people to utilize various resources and tools to bring innovations, creativity, hands-on learning, etc. A few notable maker space projects include sewing machines, embroidery works, crafting, laser cutting, and computer with design software, etc.

Almost all libraries worldwide provide information literacy programmes; these programmes aim to inform the members on how to browse and explore library resources and services. They are trained to access academic journals, e-books, magazines, and so on. Modern libraries organize community outreach programs in order to increase access to available resources, promote literacy rates and support the education needs of their members.

Inter-library Loan services are another good aspect of our libraries, which support the research needs of their patrons by contacting the local library to provide reading materials on loan for a specific period.  The library plays a tremendous role in the community’s cultural diversity; it supports its members beyond ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, economic backgrounds, and social practices.

Libraries are needs of the day; without them, no society can grow in the right direction. R. David Lankes, a professor and Director of South Carolina Library, rightly said, “Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities.”

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Abid Hussain
Abid Hussain
The writer is a library officer at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]

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