World Book and Copyright Day 2009

A special issue of LIA Newsletter to mark the World Book and Copyright Day 2009 has been uploaded on our Website. Just click on the following link to access it Special Issue – World Book Day 2009 You may also navigate from the left-hand side menu and click on the item ‘e-Newsletter/ Publications’ to access the document.

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Creativity and Innovation in Libraries

A simple working definition of creativity is problem identification and idea generation, whereas innovation refers to idea selection and its development and commercialisation.

Why is creativity and innovation so important for organisational success ? Organisations which keep creativity and innovation high on their agenda tend to be leaders in their fields, strive to maintain their leadership position longer and are likely to be quicker to bounce back when threatened by competitors. Toyota, the world’s famous motor vehicle manufacturer, for instance has developed a mechanism to encourage its employees to generate thousands of bright ideas resulting in one hundred worthwhile projects and a few development programmes.

In the same vein, faced by dramatic changes in the information environment and the ICT sector, library managers have interest not only to adapt to these sweeping changes, but, more importantly to trigger innovative ideas from their personnel with a view to remain at the frontiers of knowledge rather than mere passive observers. Technology can be used creatively in service delivery by means of the mobile phone, for instance. Some libraries have adopted this tool to send overdue reminders to patrons for the late return of library materials whereas others use this for current awareness. While technology is definitely part of the solution, there is no reason to over-glorify technology and overlook the human resource behind the technological revolution.

Innovation in libraries may involve the following initiatives:

 The discovery of unmet user needs

 The introduction of new services or the retooling of traditional services resulting in a better user experience

 Creative collaboration among libraries or between libraries and other institutions

 Explorations of the future of libraries

 Implementing new technologies to improve and extend library services to meet user needs

 Redefining processes that encourage finding new and better ways to make library collections and facilities more useful

  Incorporating best practices from foreign libraries wherever possible.

In short, libraries must be obsessed by innovation and creativity and constantly endeavour to re-invent themselves, re-engineer their services while keeping their clientele at the heart of all operations.

Ibrahim Ramjaun

Global Digital Library

The widespread global use of the open systems like Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) make it possible for us to experience the reality of all types of “virtual libraries” in the cyberspace. Thus, the “Global Digital Library” (GDL) can be a technological reality. While recognizing the importance of many other information infrastructure related problems and issues which are more global in nature, librarians need to be actively participating in working together with other groups in meeting the digital and global challenges. The current seamless GDL prototype has the capability to link many national libraries and some major libraries, archives, museums, and information organizations together.

 

Technologically, with the advent of microcomputers, optical discs and other mass storage media, telecommunications technology, digital image technology, computer graphic technology, multimedia technologies, compression technology, etc have dramatically changed the way we live, think, and communicate with each other, and certainly the way we use and view technologies. In the last couple of years, the development in communications technology has been so dramatic that we are truly experiencing the incredible power of the open system, Internet. The new technology buzzwords everywhere have been global village, electronic or digital information superhighway, information age, cyberspace, electronic frontier, virtual village, etc… In addition, communications satellites, global trade and investment, and global technology transfer have prompted dramatic social and economical changes as well. These have pushed the national economies into a more integrated world economy. Now, more than ever, as many political barriers are removed, we are able to communicate with each other openly and freely.

 

Clearly, with the ability for us to talk, write, confer with, or send textual, audio and visual information to anyone else in any part of the world, the landscape for information and for library and information services provision and delivery has changed dramatically. Instead of talking about networking and automation, we are talking about the reality of digital libraries and the delivery of information over cyberspace. Yet, we seem to be still a long way from having this kind of universal library on the open system with access to global information resources which include the collections of the world’s greatest libraries as well as others resources. We still need to pass many hurdles before we can reach this goal.

 

The current GDL prototype links the homepages of the following types of institutions together in one single global digital library system with a coherent and consistent interface: National Libraries ; National Archives ; Selective Museums of the World ;

Selective International Organizations; Selective Library and Information Networks; Selective Local Digital Libraries

 

By linking them together in the GDL system, the user community can easily access any site by a simple click of the mouse, without having to search and open the site with the URL address of each location.

 

Unquestionably, there is an urgent need for global cooperation in “digital” content building and sharing. Being digital with substantive knowledge content will be the key to a successful GDL. This will be a global challenge for librarians at a very tall order! Each library can be a dynamic and aggressive information provider of both its country’s enormously rich information resources, as well as an effective node of global information network which can provide access to all needed global information. Each contributes effectively toward the eventual realization of “The Global Library”, in which national and research libraries in the world can be linked together as nodes of the worldwide information network.

 

Being at these crossroads, in addition to speculation on the libraries in the next millennium, we must make sure that we can develop in this seemingly exciting networked environment, a vision for our global library’s future, and define its role in facing a new frontier. It is important for us to visualize that not only all types of libraries in our country would be connected to the super-network, but globally all libraries would be part of the network as well.

 

Vandana Poontaub

Online Reference Tools: A Threat to the Traditional Print Reference?

Print reference collections have traditionally been considered as essential holdings of libraries of all types: public, academic, special and national. It is not very uncommon to see many librarians who are proud of their reference treasures. This may explain the keen interest shown by library managers in the development of their reference collections by providing adequate budgets and the right level of staffing. Very often the reference service in libraries is placed under the direct responsibility of a qualified reference librarian. Regular stock taking, shelf-editing, weeding out old stocks and adding newer editions of reference tools have also been normal activities in the reference unit of libraries. The rationale behind this commitment to the development of the reference collection is that there cannot be any proper reference service without a comprehensive and updated collection. Dictionaries, biographies, bibliographies, encyclopaedias, Periodicals indexes, Atlases, Maps and Gazetteers and other reference tools in print format have always occupied prominent shelf space in libraries.

During the past few decades dramatic changes have been noted in most libraries as far as their reference collections are considered. Constraints on budget have resulted in the shrinking of the size of the collection. Weeding out of outdated materials has not been followed by the purchase of newer editions for their replacement on the shelves. To worsen the situation, there has also been recorded a low usage of reference materials in many libraries.

What are the factors that have brought this change? In the absence of reliable data from scientific investigation in local libraries, it is not advisable to jump to easy conclusions. However, it is reasonable to assume that free access to fast and quick online information from the Web may be one of the reasons of the low usage of print reference materials in libraries. The convenience and ease with which information is available from the Internet may also partly explain why users turn away from the library. After all, why should a user walk in a library when he can access the same information “at the touch of a button” (from his desk top)? Many foreign libraries have developed online reference services known under various names such as “Online Reference Shelf”, “Reference E-Resources”, or “Virtual Reference Shelf” and these are available to any user.

In the local context, it is a known fact that libraries are facing stringent budgets. The decline in usage of print reference materials may be attributed to the:

  • quality of the collection itself
  •  quality of the service
  •  size and comprehensiveness of the collection, and
  •  availability of online sources.

Users having access to online versions at their fingertips are reluctant to consult print versions at the library. Moreover, who among us have not come across reference collections in local libraries which are outdated? I personally know the case of at least one big library whose reference collection has never been updated. Some items have not been consulted even once since the opening of the library! Management of that library could not dare to relegate the unused items to the stacks without running the risks to show empty shelves. The simplistic logic in the case is to show a fully stocked library (with outdated materials) rather than with depleted shelves! After all statistics of the library shows numerical growth of the collection but not a single word about collection development.

In the face of low usage of print reference materials, should libraries continue with the same “modus operandi”? Should they keep on providing their print collections and then wait for readers to come to the library? Are our library service planners so short-sighted not to see the change? Are they totally outpaced by current rapid developments taking place in the library and information field? The need for information has not changed. Users are still there. The shift has occurred only on the means to access the information. Earlier, it was exclusively print materials, now the trend is for online access. The solution is to adapt policies and operations of libraries to meet users’ needs. Whether providing information in print format or online, libraries are still in the business of providing access to information. We should not loose sight of this simple fact.

R. Hauroo