Society, Libraries and Development

Magnus Igbinovia

Magnus Igbinovia

Man coexisted as a social entity guided by a common affinity with social interactions, sharing a common social territory. Thus, man existed in a society with principles that dictate its terms of existence and operations. Over time, the society began to experience some sort of complexities arising from governance, agriculture, economic transactions to local medicine for survival. There was undoubtedly, the need to record “ground-breaking” achievements from these complexities and transactions, for posterity and these prompted the earliest forms of writing, which serve as media of human communication. Thus, as the human society further evolved, recording history, customary laws and financial transactions pushed the invention of writing across its stages of advancement of materials from tablet (clay) to tablet (technological gargets). Across these identified spectrums of writing materials’ development, libraries have played a remarkable role in storing these materials for future reference. Thus, history is accounted for primarily because of libraries.

Early libraries containing collections of writing were of societal importance as reflected in its existence in palaces, temples and other sacred places. It must be stated however, that libraries in ancient times experienced some forms of disaster and outright destructions. They however, flourished due to their importance to governments, royalties, scholars and religious leaders. Meanwhile, society continually experience civilization with resultant effect on the number of materials documented in the library, hence, the need for organization.

The very essence of library evolved alongside human civilization, changing the ideology of libraries from a place where documents are stored to an information institution where knowledge is created, acquired, organized, stored, disseminated and used for societal development. Thus, the 21st century library has a whole new meaning, acting as a development institution. Hence, libraries of all types in one way or the other serve as instrument of development to the society for the benefit of humanity.

The school library helps in the affective and cognitive development of the child. The academic library promotes teaching, learning and research which is pivotal to national development. The public library is central to community development, providing information and knowledge required for effective agricultural practices, indigenous knowledge for orthodox medicine, among others. Special library support their parent institution to achieve its objectives which contributes directly or indirectly to development of the society, and all of these development endeavors are for the sake of humanity. Therefore, society, libraries and development are trisome intertwined for the furtherance of humanity. For the purpose of this write-up, this relationship will be examined against the backdrop of libraries involvement in the attainment of United Nation’s agenda to transform our world (society).

In a bid to tackle global challenges, countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, have agreed upon a framework to spur development agenda for the next 15 years, known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This UN global agenda with details available at, is aimed to transform humanity. Libraries like other institutions have keyed-into this agenda to contribute their quota to the attainment of these global goals. Through her involvement in SDGs, libraries are further driving society towards development.

Here are some of the ways libraries are enhancing development of the society from the standpoint of SDGs:

  • Advocacy: Knowing that information is vital to the SDGs, libraries under the auspices of International Federation of Library Institutions and Associations (IFLA) have been actively involved with the creation of the UN 2030 agenda (otherwise known as SDGs), advocating for the inclusion of access to information, safeguarding cultural heritage, universal literacy and access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the framework. This birthed the International Advocacy Programmme (IAP), designed to promote and support the roles libraries can play in the planning and implementation of SDGs. The main objectives of IAP are (IFLA, 2017):
    • Raise the level of awareness on the SDGs of library workers at community, national and regional levels, and to promote the role libraries can play in development by contributing to the UN global agenda.
    • Increase the participation of library associations and public library representatives in advocacy work at national and regional levels to secure sustainable public access to information through library services and programmes.

    Through the IAP, libraries are speaking out for the United Nations’ global agenda to transform our world as well as “walking the talk” (proactively carrying out activities that support the agenda). The Lyon declaration on access to information and development available at is another, yet vital advocacy effort of IFLA in stimulating development.

  • Awareness creation: As part of the IAP, libraries are providing awareness to the SDGs as stated in the preceding part of this work. However, this is worthy of separate attention here, as creating awareness to all about the global agenda is crucial to its realization. Libraries and related groups are using social media platforms like facebook and twitter to create awareness about the SDGs. A preliminary investigation shows that the awareness level of SDGs is low even among the educated people and this demands urgent attention as no one lives above his/her level of information and knowledge.
  • Literacy programmes: In the words of Alvin Toffler, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. By implication, it is expected of the 21st century literate to be able to learn, unlearn and relearn, which are survival skills in this present dispensation. Libraries provide all forms of literacy programmes which in one way or another correlate with the SDGs. For example, libraries provide/promote adult literacy programmes and early childhood education in support of SDG 4. Libraries organize media, computer and digital literacy programmes that support some targets in SDGs 8 and 10. Moreover, libraries provide information literacy programmes which are bedrock of the global development framework. Information literacy which equips people to effectively access information is outrightly spelt out by SDG 16.10 (i.e. goal 16, target 10). It is therefore summarized that library literacy programmes are pertinent to the actualization of SDGs, making libraries crucial to the agenda.
  • Community engagement: Public library is at the heart of the community, providing information services for development. Through community engagement, libraries are contributing immensely to development, by providing information services to community members at all levels. Public libraries partner with health practitioners to provide medical checkups for people as well as subsidize cost of treatment, as in the case of Keneth Dike Memorial Library, Awka. Also, libraries are evolving as a voice for effective governance. This they do by tilting public opinion towards political participation. This was exemplified by the Library Advocacy Group’s ( twitter campaign (#YourVoteYourRight) on the need for Nigerians to get their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and vote in the forthcoming election. Also, library could provide unbiased information on political aspirants to acquaint electorates with sufficient knowledge to make their choice of political candidate. Moreover, as part of community engagement, libraries are positioned rightly to engender partnership with financial institutions to provide loans to farmers and market women in order to stimulate economic integration.
  • Research: Academic and special libraries of the 21st century are referred to as research hubs because of their in scientific research. Whereas, research is considered as the backbone of development. By implication, libraries can enhance development through its involvement in research activities. The link between libraries, research and sustainable development was investigated by Igbinovia (2017) in a study entitled “Librarians’ involvement in cross-disciplinary research and its implication to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. The study is hinged on the fact that scientific research anchors the realization of SDGs and librarians’ involvement in research will bring them to the fore of global impact. The study among other things revealed that librarians are equipped with the required knowledge to engage in cross-disciplinary research, which is a means to achieving SDGs through numerous services like literature searching/review/bibliographic verification, environmental scanning for problem identification, research data services, among others. Therefore, libraries are considered as a major player in the UN agenda to transform our world.

Conclusively, this review has established a relationship between society, libraries and development by positioning libraries of all types, as a vehicle that drives society towards development. It further supports the relevance of libraries in the 21st century and the need to amass resources and support for its continued existence and effective functioning.


IFLA (2017). International Advocacy Programme. Available at:
Igbinovia, M.O. (2017). Librarians’ involvement in cross-disciplinary research and its implication to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Library Review, 66(4): 251-265. Available at:


Author: Magnus Igbinovia

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