Library culture slightly varies from one library type to another but with a number of similarities. How well the library achieves her objective of meeting the information needs of clientele will be predicted by its culture.
Library culture thus determines the following:
- Internal interactions: how library management relates with library personnel and how personnel relates with one another within the institution. For example, round table meetings.
- External interactions: how library management and personnel relates with stakeholders like users, parent institution, publishers/booksellers/vendors, cooperating libraries, friends of libraries, government, among others.
- For example, library advocacy programmes.
- Behaviour and practices: these are the actions and activities which are in common place in almost every library but not without slight variations. For example, library registration of users.
The collective values, norms and behaviour (culture) of the library should be rightly projected to the public who are potential users of libraries of various categories. This is pertinent to change the perception of people towards the library as a social institution and for the purpose of this write-up, library culture will be stated as succinctly as possible under library users, building/structure, personnel and resources/services.
Values and belief system: these are ideologies, belief pattern or things that are of great worth, significance and importance to the library. They dictate what the library does and does not. For example, we belief that users are at the core of the library system.
It is the culture of every library to cater for their users. We believe that users are priceless and of inestimable value. They are the reasons library exist and as such great importance must be placed in meeting their information needs and ensuring their utmost satisfaction. The career fulfillment of any library personnel is indirectly influenced by the level of satisfaction of library users.
It should be the culture of every library to meet the needs of users by providing them with adequate and timely resources and services in an efficient and effective manner. Library personnel must see users as “client”, hence they are called clientele, knowing that their retention is key. Library users are customers to the library and personnel must engage them using the right attitude, skills and knowledge to ensure their utmost satisfaction which invariably creates a sense of users’ loyalty towards the library.
LIBRARY BUILDINGS / STRUCTURE
Though innovations of the 21st century allows for libraries in the cyber space, known and referred to as digital libraries; physical libraries are still relevant today especially in developing countries where majority of the populace are challenged by poor Internet connectivity, lack of power supply, high cost of electronic or smart devices among others which are all bane to the effective use of digital library. Hence, physical library remains the hope of the common man.
The need for physical library is still very crucial in the digital age in developing countries where the rate of technology adoption is poor and digital migration is low. Hence, most people lack the required digital competence required to utilize digital library appropriately.
The library as a social and information based institution is a place for all and as such its building must be open and equitable. Libraries should provide utilities or infrastructure for all including the physical challenged and its space should accommodate the educational, recreational and cultural purposes of the library. In addition, new libraries should accommodate new roles of libraries in their design for example creating social space for socialization and connectivity; maker space for creativity and innovation, etcetera.
First, we must realize that not every one that works in the library is a librarian though they are library personnel. While a library personnel could cut across portals or security officers in the library, library assistant, library officer and administrative officers in the library; a librarian is an individual with a formal training and a university degree in librarianship and registered to practice by the Librarians’ Registration Council of Nigeria (LRCN).
Library personnel interact regularly with users and as such must be emotionally intelligent, skilled, knowledgeable and with a good attitude to function optimally in the services they rendered. Thus, there is need for training and retraining of library personnel to meet up with the 21st century workplace requirement.
Library personnel should be hospitable, friendly, approachable, empathetic and understanding to users of the library in a bid to create a positive image for the library, knowing that image is everything.
LIBRARY RESOURCES / SERVICES
The resources available and services rendered in any library depend on the objective(s) informed by the library’s type. Library resources could either be print (books, periodicals, reference materials etc) or electronic materials (microfilms, microfiche, tapes, CD ROMs) are for use and as such open to users upon registration following the terms of the library usage.
Thus, no library users should be deprived of his/her right to use of library resources and these resources should be kept in good condition for use. However, users must ensure they comply with the terms and condition of such use.
Library users should be civil in their use of library materials abstaining from library offences such as proliferation and “dog-earing” of materials, theft and deliberate mis-shelving for selfish purposes.
Library materials are well organized to save the time of users. Structures such as the Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) exist to save the time of the users. Also, library users are advised to walk-up to a librarian for help in retrieving required material(s).
Library services vary from one library type to another and some of such services that directly have impact on users include references services, loaning services, carrel services, bibliographic services and circulation services. Libraries however transcends conventional practices to render more services in view of 21st century expectations and some of such services include information literacy programmes, learning and recreational spaces, social and maker spaces and bibliotherapeutic services.
While the characteristics and needs of library users are constantly changing in response to societal changes, the task of librarians in the present and future is to help users meet their needs by consistently improving and finding better ways to provide customized information, guidance and instruction to the users they serve (Igbinovia & Solanke, 2015). The services provided by libraries have been adaptive to issues and trends in civilization, making it a place that caters for your need almost freely yet to your satisfaction.
Conclusively, library culture is an essential ingredients that spice up every library and make it what it is, and as such must be understood by all stakeholders without misconceptions. The resources available in the library, services provided, structures and personnel are systematically put in place to ensure that the information needs of users are met. Thus, the library and users relationship can be likened to the spider at the center of the web.
Fleury, M. T. L. (2009). Organisational culture and the renewal of competences. Brazilian Administration Review 6.1:1-14, Available at: http://www.anpad.org.br/bar
Igbinovia, M O. and Solanke, O. E. (2015). Shinning a light on the reference librarian role as
reference services adapt to user’s needs. Library Connect 13(6) Available: http://libraryconnect.elsevier.com/articles/shining-light-reference-librarian-role-reference-services-adapt-users-needs
Author: Magnus Igbinovia