Libraries driving access to knowledge in the 21st century in developing countries: an overview.

Author:Fagbola, Olaronke


Only by transmission of knowledge by each succeeding generation can civilization maintain itself and make advance upon the knowledge of the past. Jefferson, (1962)

Libraries are service organizations where individuals, organizations, and societies are provided unhindered access to substantial quantities of information. Libraries are collections of books and other information resources gathered for the purposes of reading, study, and reference (Onwubiko and Uzoigwe, 2004; Aina, 2003; Encyclopedia Britannica, 1974). Reitz, (2004) sees a library as a collection or group of collections of books and/or other materials organized and maintained for use. Historically, libraries have served as places where books used for the documentation of knowledge were kept, but they are now portals to global information relevant in education, research, individual and national development (Omekwu & Ugwuanyi, 2009 in Okore, Ekere, and Eke, 2009). Knowledge, according to Reitz (2004) expressed either in formal or systematic language, codified in form of data, scientific formulae, etc. It can be defined as information that has been comprehended and evaluated in the light of experience and incorporated into the knower's intellectual understanding of the subject. With the emergence of new technologies that facilitats access to information, an economic struggle has arisen in libraries.

The library, as a conduit for information, serving a wide spectrum of information seekers, has a critical role to play in the facilitation of knowledge generation; hence, an unhindered access to knowledge is essential in a development process. It serves as a liberator from poverty and deprivation and as a springboard in the quest for innovation and change. Drake (1984) in Tise, Raju and Masango, (2008) says that access to information is a complex concept. Libraries have the mandate to drive access to information to alleviate poverty and deprivation due to paradoxical situation of a scarcity of information in an era of information explosion.

The Importance of Library to Knowledge Management

According to Lee (2005), while the business world is changing in the new knowledge economy and digital age, libraries of all types are undergoing drastic changes also. The new role of libraries in the 21st century is to be a learning and knowledge center for their users as well as the intellectual commons for their respective communities where, to borrow the phrase from the Keystone Principles, people and ideas interact in both the real and virtual environments to expand learning and facilitate the creation of new knowledge. As a learning organization, libraries should provide a strong leadership in knowledge management since the most important mission is to expand the access of knowledge for their users.

The importance of library to knowledge management can be facilitated by library services in a variety of ways, which are itemized below (Lee 2005)

* Knowledge resources management: As a result of exponential growth in human knowledge in a variety of formats, libraries must develop their resources access and sharing strategies from printed to electronic and digital resources in concert with their mission and charges;

* Resource sharing and networking: Libraries have had a long tradition of resource sharing and networking. These have been greatly expanded by the rapid development of computer, telecommunication, networking, and digital technologies and the success of which are largely as a result of the full cooperation and participation of all member libraries.

* Information technology development: To facilitate the implementation of knowledge management, a well-designed and operational knowledge management system should be in place. Latest information technology should be used as an enabler.

* User services: The utmost goal of knowledge management is to provide users with a variety of quality services in order to improve the communication, use and creation of knowledge.

* Human resource management: A great amount of expert knowledge is possessed by library staff and users, both in and outside the libraries. In university and research communities such expertise is abundant and should be inventoried, indexed, and updated regularly and be made searchable and accessible through electronic databases created and maintained by libraries. Also the transfer of knowledge and experience from experienced staff to new staff members must be encouraged.

In a nutshell, libraries preserve knowledge so that none is lost, organize knowledge...

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