No Library is an island

As students of LIS, you must have come across the saying that “No Library is an Island”. The meaning is simple: no library can stand on its own and pretend to be “self-sufficient”. In fact, no library is capable of satisfying all the information needs of its users, however resourceful the library might be. In the past, some rulers cherished the dream to possess all the printed materials of the world. The founders of the Ancient Library of Alexandria (now Bibliotheca Alexandrina) had such plans in their mind. Expeditions were even launched to various parts of the world to “collect” library materials. The Library of Congress, resourceful as it is, and true to its lead role as an icon in the communication of information, cannot claim to hold all the publications of the world.

Now that we are all working in the LIS sector, we realise how important it is for libraries to cooperate with each other, pull out our resources and share our expertise for the common benefits of all our users. Such cooperation has the advantage of maximising output out of our scarce resources and at the same time avoiding unnecessary duplication of work/resources. Libraries in the past have successfully operated such cooperative projects which have proved fruitful, particularly when such plans were well-thought, designed with a purpose and with the good will of librarians committed towards their users. The various union catalogues compiled at regional levels or in particular subject areas are examples of such successful projects. In Mauritius, the need for sharing our resources is even more important as the size of the country easily facilitates such endeavours. We could imagine the ease and comfort for a local researcher to have access to all what he wants from “one point of access only”. Who would deny the benefits of networking all libraries in institutions involved in tertiary education in Mauritius? The same could be said of libraries in secondary institutions. Creating a community starts by first sharing what we have. Can we lay claim to have developed a model for sharing library resources at national level?

Instead of bridging / cementing our way towards a community of information providers, and working strenuously towards some kind of “horizontal integration of libraries”, some ‘forces of evil’ have destroyed the very foundation of this community. By encroaching into the territorial zones of other organisations, duplicating resources or even ‘hijacking’ collections of other cultural institutions resulting in the overlapping of corporate functions and ‘building empires’ of collections, alien to their statutory objectives, these evil forces have deliberately attempted to do every thing but ultimately ended up by doing nothing [well]. They have thought of their library as an island! Real ‘Jack of all trades, but master of none!’ Some would say ‘round pegs in square holes!’

R. Hauroo

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