The Roles of Libraries in Teaching and Learning


Libraries have long played a critical role in learning. The first great library in Alexandria two thousand years ago was really the first university. Consisting of a zoo and various cultural artefacts, alongside much of the written knowledge of antiquity, it attracted scholars from across the Mediterranean who lived and worked in a scholarly community for years. Today, the rhetoric associated with the National/Global Information Infrastructure (N/GII) always includes examples of how the vast amounts of information that global networks (ie, digital libraries) provide are used in educational environments. An important aspect of the library’s educational mission is the promotion and development of the information literacy of its users. Information literacy, in general, is the ability to effectively identify, locate, use, and interpret information.

Role of modern libraries:

A library is defined by three basic functions:

(1)Choose to create a “Collection”;
(2) organization to provide access; and
(3) Storage for further use.

Although technologies may evolve to add the second function to the web, the first and third functions are contrary to the very nature of the web today. The successor to the Web will become more “library-like,” and libraries will continue to become more “Web-like,” but each will retain some key differences from one another.

The web is definitely not a library now and probably never will be. But the Web provides a wonderful mechanism for collaboration between scholars and librarians who wish to create “libraries” of quality resources on a specific subject for research and teaching. Another major concern with web resources is that they are short-lived. Libraries select and preserve information resources for generations to come. The lifetime of web-based resources is calculated in days!

How do libraries support teaching and learning?

A library is fundamentally an organized collection of resources spanning human services as well as the full media spectrum (e.g., text, video, hypermedia). Libraries have physical components such as space, equipment, and storage media; intellectual components such as collection policies that determine what materials are included and organizational schemes that determine how the collection is accessed; and people who manage the physical and intellectual components and interact with users to solve information problems

Libraries fulfill at least three roles in learning.

First, they serve a practical role in sharing expensive resources. Physical resources such as books and magazines, films and videos, software and electronic databases, and specialized tools such as projectors, graphics devices, and cameras are shared by a community of users. Human Resources – Librarians (also called media specialists or information specialists) support instructional programs by responding to requests from teachers and students (responsive service) and by initiating activities for teachers and students (proactive services). Responsive Services include managing reserve materials, answering reference questions, providing bibliographic instructions, developing media packs, recommending books or films, and teaching users how to use materials. Proactive services include targeted dissemination of information to teachers and students, initiation of thematic events, collaboration with teachers on lesson planning, and the introduction of new teaching methods and tools. In this way, libraries serve to enable teachers and students to exchange expensive materials and expertise.

Second, libraries fulfill a cultural role in preserving and organizing artifacts and ideas. Great works of literature, art and science must be preserved and made accessible to future learners. Although libraries have traditionally been viewed as institutions for printed artifacts, elementary and secondary school libraries often serve as museums and laboratories as well. Libraries preserve objects through careful preservation procedures, lending and usage policies, and repair and maintenance as needed. In addition to preservation, libraries ensure access to materials through indexes, catalogs, and other finding aids that enable learners to find items that meet their needs.

Third, libraries fulfill a social and intellectual role by bringing people and ideas together. This differs from the practical role of resource sharing in that libraries provide a physical place for teachers and learners to meet outside of the classroom structure, allowing people with different perspectives to interact in a knowledge space that is both larger as well as more general is that shared by a single discipline or affinity group. Browsing a catalog in a library provides a global perspective to those engaged in specialized studies and provides opportunities for incidental insight or alternative views. In many ways, libraries serve as interdisciplinary hubs—places shared by learners of all disciplines.

Formal learning is systematic and instructional. Formal learning takes place in courses of various kinds in schools and in training or programs in the workplace. The important role that libraries play in formal learning is exemplified by their physical presence on university campuses and the number of courses that directly use library services and materials. Most information resources in schools are directly linked to the instructional mission. Students or teachers who want to find information outside of this mission have had to travel to other libraries in the past. By making the wide range of information resources available to students and teachers in schools, discussed below, digital libraries open up new learning opportunities for global, not just local, communities.

Much of life’s learning is informal – opportunistic and strictly under the control of the learner. In informal learning, learners use other people, mass media and the immediate environment. The public library system that developed in the United States in the late 19th century was known as the “free university” because public libraries were created to provide free access to the world’s knowledge. Public libraries offer classic non-fiction, a wide range of periodicals, reference works, and audio and video cassettes to enable users to learn about subjects of their choice at their own pace and style. As computer technology and global telecommunications networks begin to transform opportunities in formal classrooms, they are changing the way individuals pursue in-person learning missions.

Professional learning refers to the ongoing learning that adults undertake to do their jobs and improve their work-related knowledge and skills. In fact, for many professionals, learning is the central aspect of their work. Like informal learning, it is mainly self-directed, but unlike formal or informal learning, it focuses on a specific area closely related to job performance, aims to be comprehensive, and is acquired and applied longitudinally. Because professional learning impacts job performance, corporations and government agencies support libraries (often referred to as information centers) with information resources specifically tailored to the organization’s goals.

However, the most important sources of information for professional learning are personal collections of books, reports and files; magazine subscriptions; and the human networks of colleagues maintained through professional meetings and various communications. Many of the datasets and computational tools in digital libraries were originally designed to enhance professional learning. The information resources – both physical and human – that support this type of learning are adapted for specific missions and are traditionally physically separate, although common technologies such as printing, photography and computers are found in all environments.
Role of digital libraries:

Digital libraries extend these in an interdisciplinary manner by making diverse information resources available beyond the physical space shared by study groups. One of the greatest benefits of digital libraries is bringing people together with formal, informal, and professional learning missions. Many of the datasets and computational tools in digital libraries were originally designed to enhance professional learning. The information resources – both physical and human – that support this type of learning are adapted for specific missions and are traditionally physically separate, although common technologies such as printing, photography and computers are found in all environments.

Digital libraries combine technology and information resources to enable remote access and eliminate the physical barriers between resources. Although these resources remain specialized to meet the needs of specific learning communities, digital libraries will allow teachers and students to use a wider range of materials and communicate with people outside of the formal learning environment. This will allow for greater integration of the different types of learners. Although not all students or teachers in formal learning settings use information resources beyond their limited curriculum, and not all professionals want to interact even occasionally with beginners, digital libraries allow learners of all kinds to share resources, time and energy, and expertise for their mutual benefits. The following sections illustrate some of the types of information resources that define digital libraries.

As research and education increasingly rely on global networks for the creation, storage and dissemination of knowledge, the need to educate information literate students is increasingly recognized. Students often lack the necessary skills to thrive in this rapidly changing environment, and faculty need training and support to use new technologies for effective teaching and learning. The current environment offers librarians the opportunity to play a key role in the development of integrated information literacy. Therefore, technology itself can provide a positive boost, as “developments in education and technology are beginning to help academic librarians make new breakthroughs in integrating information and technology skills into the curriculum.”

Technology makes it possible to make library services available to students and faculty whenever and wherever they need such services. Technology enables 24/7 library services without increasing investment in human resources. In addition, research materials increasingly only exist in digital form. Such resources are only available through the use of technology. Libraries will continue to take advantage of the inevitable technological innovations to improve productivity, control costs, enrich services and provide the quality content demanded.



Thanks to Poonkothai Rethinasami | #Roles #Libraries #Teaching #Learning

Check Also

An open letter to my sales manager

An open letter to my sales manager

Dear sales manager, How many times have I heard you say that you want me …