The public library

The public library, the local gateway to knowledge, provides a basic condition for lifelong learning, independent decision- making and cultural development of the individual and social groups. It is a living force for education, culture and information, and as an essential agent for the fostering of peace and spiritual welfare through the minds of men and women. (IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto 1994)
Public libraries are the new village green. They are public spaces where everyone is welcome and can participate. They make a vital contribution towards the social capital, educational and recreational development of local communities and are an important foundation of democracy. Public library services are provided on the basis of equality of access for all, regardless of age, race, sex, religion, nationality, language or social status. Specific services and materials are provided for those users who cannot, for whatever reason, use the regular services and materials, including the aged, people with disabilities or people in hospital or prison.
Collections and services are developed to meet the current, emerging and future needs of the local community and include print and electronic resources. The Public Library Manifesto opines that public libraries should be free and that collections and services should not be subject to any form of ideological, political or religious censorship, nor commercial pressures. (IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto 1994)
Public libraries worldwide play an essential role in supporting development through equitable access to quality assured information. Library services, technology tools, collection formats and community needs are diverse and continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Technology will continue to feature, providing people access to devices and software that would otherwise be unaffordable; library staff will not be behind a desk, they will be engaging with users and providing expertise face-to-face and online, and they will be delivering programs and activities, both direct and through partnerships, tailored to suit the local community. Public libraries will continue to connect users to information and ideas, but they will play an even greater role in bringing people together. (IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto 1994)
The primary purpose of the public library is to provide resources and services in a variety of information to meet the needs of individuals and groups for education, personal development including recreation and leisure. Munchen, K.G. (2001). Public library plays an important role in people’s lives as a source of accessing information and a place for knowledge creation. We all know the value of our libraries and it’s to take the value and use that to advocate for the better.
Public libraries are more than shelves of books. They have become a type of social and cultural institution, potentially offering a constantly changing range of resources for the community (Buschman & Leckie 2007). These public libraries have been built to play a role as an inclusive place, offering a broad choice of different media and professional guidance in information searching (Kjekstad 2004).
As Gorman (2000) states, every community needs public library services for social and individual development, with services, activities and programs that match community needs. According to Evans and Saponaro (2005, p. 328), ‘public libraries in general have long been known for the studies they conduct to determine the composition of their user community and assess their users’ needs’. Library services, activities and programs should 6 serve all people in the community, in order that those who desire to use such facilities will have convenient access to them. In addition, library services, activities, and programs should ideally be designed to promote users’ self-sufficiency, and to provide users with access to delivery of information regardless of place or time (Raja & Saidina 2003).
The 2006 Alexandria Proclamation affirms that information literacy is seen as a prerequisite for participation in an information society; it is a part of the basic human right of lifelong learning (IFLA/UNESCO 2006), hence it is also an integral part of education for all (Thompson & Cody 2003). Briefly, information and knowledge supports all types of development and are vital to all activities of a community. Being information literate can lead to promoting community development and eventually improving the conditions and quality of life for community members.
A public library is one of the few public spaces that is shared by different cultural groups and is seen as a neutral ground for people of all races (Bauer 2009). Public libraries are also essential in developing an educated society. Through their services, activities and programs, public libraries offer opportunities for individuals, particularly in rural and disadvantaged communities, to improve their lives through developing their skills and improving their literacy level. Through these opportunities, these individuals will later develop empowerment abilities within their own community (Buschman & Leckie 2007).
Although many researchers such as Hamzah Isa (2010), Hema Swaminathan and Jill Findeis (2004), and Nigel Curry (2001) have focused their studies and efforts on collecting, investigating and discussing various rural issues that are complex and diverse, not much attention has been given to understanding and recognizing the potential that a public library could provide, conceptually, practically and environmentally, as a suitable place for community development programs and activities (Gill 2001; Bundy 2003a; SLV 2005, 2006). This role of public libraries often remains unrecognized and the major challenge is how to capitalize on the public library’s potential to contribute to communities.
Public access to information enables people to make informed decisions that can improve their lives. Communities that have access to timely and relevant information for all are better positioned to eradicate poverty and inequality, improve agriculture, provide quality education, and support people’s health, culture, research, and innovation. In the era of knowledge economy, libraries important role for library users is to maintain and provide a number of book resources.
Nowadays public libraries have to strive hard to improve their services and user satisfaction because, in order to receive subsidies, the libraries must have a proper building, provide well-rounded collections, and employ trained librarians. However, the government grants are rather small and tend to decline even further, as can be seen in the massive budget cuts of 2010. For this reason libraries increasingly need to partially fund themselves, for instance through higher annual subscriptions, although these slightly reduce the use of the library by people who cannot afford the membership fee and it is in contradiction with the primary objective of the ‘free’ library.
To fulfil its roles satisfactorily the public library must have adequate resources, not just when it is established but also on a continuing basis, to enable it to sustain and develop services that meet the needs of the local community. This means it should provide materials in all formats, up-dated regularly to meet the changing needs of groups and individuals, including newly-published and replacement materials.
Selection of materials for libraries has been around as long as libraries have, though records of how decisions were made in the ancient libraries are not available. (Johnson, 2014, p. 3). Acquisitions is the process of locating and acquiring all types of library materials after they have been selected for a library’s collection” (Wilkinson and Lewis, 2003, p. 1).
According to Marco (2012, pp. 2-6), acquisitions departments are found in most libraries, generally as a unit within technical processes, collection management and collection development, but often, however, as an independent department. Acquisitions departments are responsible for getting the materials needed by the libraries’ users, in the most appropriate format and in the most efficient manner. Formats and methods change, but the responsibility and the functions of acquiring library materials remain at the core of the acquisitions department
Guide to Ethics in Acquisitions, by Wyoma vanDuinkerken, Wendi Arant Kaspar, and Jeanne Harrell, provides a useful, brief history of the American Library Association Code of Ethics, along with a history of the development of the Statement on Principles and Standards of Acquisitions Practice adopted by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) board of directors in 1994. The authors highlight the ethical issues an acquisitions librarian may face in the workplace—selecting titles, choosing the vendor used to acquire those resources, and managing the acquisitions budget. This is not just of patrons but also of business information in connection with vendor selection, contracts, and pricing.
As is true of the other books that are a part of the ALCTS Acquisitions Guides Series, the Guide to Ethics in Acquisitions continues and summarizes current conversations regarding an important part of acquisitions librarianship.
The Guide to Ethics in Acquisitions by Wyoma vanDuinkerken, Wendi Arant Kaspar, and Jeanne Harrell covers the previous and current aspects of ethical acquisitions practices in an academic library. Acquisitions librarians are tasked with various responsibilities including budgeting, adjusting, and adhering to a variety of payment workflows, reporting expenditure data to institutional stakeholders, and collection development, all of which require to be ethical stewards of library funding and resources. This guide not only clarifies some of the reasoning for previous acquisitions practices, largely because of lack of specific ethical guidelines for librarians, but also provides information on some of the newer situations that librarians encounter because of the changing nature of research and information today.
The guide begins with touching on the importance of ethics and what helps frame what we consider ethical treatment of a given situation. As the authors point out, we are all shaped by a different set of morals and values that are taught by our families or imparted by our cultures. Without a firm understanding of the difference between personal ethics and professional ethics, those that we hold in common as members of the American Library Association (ALA), it is very difficult for us as librarians to act in an ethical manner. Legal ethics encompass those ethical guidelines or procedures that we follow not because of personal feeling or professional obligation but because they are dictated by law either on the state or federal level.
Purchasing books from small presses and self-publishers has always been a challenge for the acquisitions librarian. What’s new—and why Self-Publishing and Collection Development: Opportunities and Challenges for Libraries is so important—is the sheer number of such publications today. Editor Robert P. Holley began his research after hearing an NPR report stating that up to 75% of new titles are self-published. These are not the vanity press titles of the past, but solid books authors have chosen for the indie route rather than an established channel. As such, the books do not gain entrée to the same reviewing and distribution routes, yet they are local authors, important alternative voices, and minority writers. Holley gathers essays on why these titles are important for library collections, how book vendors can be of help, where to find reviews, and perspectives from the indie author.
Related to acquisitions is resource sharing. No library can acquire everything its users might want, and librarians have developed cooperative processes to expand collection reach. In Resource Sharing Today: A Practical Guide to Interlibrary Loan, Consortial Circulation, and Global Cooperation, Corinne Nyquist begins by looking at what we learn (and don’t learn) in library school. You do not learn how to do interlibrary loan (ILL), but you do learn its underpinnings: MARC and cataloging. She goes on to examine OCLC’s role, the impact of serials cancellations, copyright issues, costs, and the value of reference service in leading the patron to ILL. She also explores the link between resource sharing and acquisitions: when an item should be purchased rather than borrowed and how this relates to patron-driven acquisitions. One of the appendices sums up the needed knowledge: guidelines and laws, technology, ¬customer service, assessment, education, and networking.