What if members won’t come to your library?

Just imagine a situation when you observe over a period of time that the number of users of your library is dropping off dramatically, though you spend huge amounts on the acquisition of relevant and up-to-date library materials. What would you do if the visit of members is less frequent even if the number of queries for information keeps on rising?

The Royal Society of Chemistry faced such a situation and found the solution by transforming its very traditional learned society library into a virtual library for its 45,000 members worldwide. It converted its print collections into electronic resources and innovated by providing remote-access to its registered members. “From small beginnings in 2004, the virtual library of the Royal Society of Chemistry has grown to include 235 full-text e-journals (from Elsevier and Springer), 1445 e-books (from Knovel, Springer, Elsevier, NetLibrary), millions of full-text articles from over 3,600 journals in Ebsco’s aggregated full-text databases, 8 databases in chemistry, business, the environment, general science, TOCs (Table of Contents) and news, specific chemistry databanks and compilations, pre-paid download tokens from Elsevier and Wiley to supplement full-text.” Read the full story as reported by Nigel Lees at http://web.fumsi.com/go/article/share/2818.
Very inspiring for librarians!
What if the situation described earlier existed in Mauritius? I personally know of one case of public library in Mauritius, namely the Mauritius Institute Library, which had been closed following the recommendations of a Committee composed of big shots in the LIS sector in Mauritius. If my memory does not fail me, it was on the basis of statistical data showing a dramatic fall in usage of library materials (borrowing services) that the Committee recommended the closure of the library. I wonder if there had there been any investigation on the reasons explaining this downward slope in usage of library materials. Was there any user survey carried out to have their views? Was it the right solution? Had the Committee members considered all the alternatives before making their recommendations? In a developing country like Mauritius, was it wise to close an institution like the Mauritius Institute library when every body knows the Herculean tasks in convincing authorities to open new public libraries. Many people who have benefited from the services of the library still have good memories of the library as a place for learning, research and scholarship. The borrowing facilities provided by the library have not been taken over by any other library since then. There is a strong case to believe that there was some “hidden agenda” behind the closure of the library. Some day the lies will be revealed and the truth will come out!
R. Hauroo


3 Responses to “What if members won’t come to your library?”

  1. Ibrahim Says:

    The demise of the Mauritius Institute Library in 1999 was a sad news indeed. As a user who enjoyed browsing through this library’s rich reference collection and the up-to-date periodicals’ section, the closure of this library simply meant a great loss. “L’Express” newspaper even published an excellent article deploring this closure. But nobody listened to this clarion call, unfortunately. I sincerely believe the functions of this public library situated in such a strategically situated city centre, are completely different from those of a national library – the latter offering no lending service for instance. Maybe the decision-makers were not well advised at that time !

  2. liam2008mauritius Says:

    I wonder what would have been the recommendations of the Committee recommending the closure of the Mauritius Institute Library, had it been given the responsibility to advise on the case of The Royal Society of Chemistry. Without being too cynical, I guess it would have recommended its closure! The easiest solution!

  3. Mauritius Institute: Mort d’une bibliotheque « LIA – Library & Information Association’ Blog (Republic of Mauritius) Says:

    […] liam2008mauritius Some time back in January 2009, we posted a blog with the following title “What if members won’t come to your library?” wherein the closing of the Mauritius Institute Library was referred to. While going through the […]

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