What role does library play?

Millions of dollars are spent constructing, stuffing, and equipping libraries. Are libraries worth the cost? Many people would want to know the real importance of libraries. The following are some of the key roles played by the libraries.

  1. Libraries as source of Employment

Every government wishes to reduce the employment rate among its citizens. There are many sectors employing people both directly or indirectly. Library is among those sectors employing a considerable number of the population both formally and informally. There are librarians, drivers, cleaners, security among others who are directly employed by the library management and they get their monthly salaries and wages. Sociologist Daniel Bell noted a trend in the American workforce whereby more jobs shifted from manufacturing and farming to information and knowledge exchange. He calls this the advent of postindustrial society.  In 1962, an American economist Fritz Machlup quantified the number of jobs related to production and processing of information in relation to others. He concluded that there is a great shift in jobs. He noted that from 1900 to 1959, jobs have significantly shifted from agricultural to office and information centered. He presented this in a table as shown below.


Labor force 1900 1959
Agricultural jobs 37.5% 9.9%
Manual and Service jobs 44.9% 48%
White collar jobs 17.6% 42.1%


From the above table, it’s evident that most jobs are becoming available in white collar jobs than in Agricultural and manual services. It’s therefore apparent that every society which wants to expand the job opportunities for their citizens must continue supporting their white collar sectors. Library being among the white collar sectors should not be an exception. Libraries should get adequate funding to continue hiring competent staff that will provide quality services. This is because less and incompetent staff will translate to poor quality services at the library hence the fall in information and knowledge sector. Japanese ethnologist Tadao Umesao also agreed with Bells idea when he asserted that international postindustrial social order placed information in the central stage thus posing a shift in national productivity, economy and political happenings. Today it’s clear that most industries are dependent on information industry. Currently, there are many students graduating in the fields of Information Technology and libraries are some of the areas they seek employment from. If they cannot be employed in the libraries, then we are not appreciating the developments in the Information Technology. There should be adequate number of staff so that libraries should not reduce their opening hours but instead increase them.


  1. Source of information

In the libraries, one will find different kinds of literature. The collection is so wide that one may be spoilt of choices. A library contains documents which were written very a long ago and the ones produced recently. This therefore makes the library as the bridge between pre information age and the information age.

The role played by librarians is very critical to the development of society. There is a lot of information which needs to be gathered and arranged in a systematic manner so that they can be made available to the society. This therefore implies that without libraries, information could have been scattered that it could almost be impossible to access the information you need in appropriate time. Libraries have over the years gathered most of the literary works and information which have been used widely in different fields. The speed by which information is got is also critical. Libraries are now embracing the fastest speeds in information technology. In USA, there is an initiative to build an internet connectivity of up to 100GBps broadband. This is a proof that libraries are within the limits of technological changes.

Libraries have traditionally offered reference services to people and recently, they have extended this service to online reference services. This has enabled libraries cope with continued rise in expectations of people with regards to information. Since libraries have embraced technologies, many books have been digitalized and more are still digitalized. This therefore makes libraries to be a place where one is sure to get a literature in whatever form he/she may require.

Educational institutions require libraries to house materials used for reference and for research purposes. Without well-equipped libraries, the quality of education could be greatly compromised. A lot of research works done by student are housed in most of the libraries. These researched works are known to be of great benefits to readers who put them into practice. Without libraries, some of the breakthroughs in in research could not have been achieved. This is because researchers look for books and related articles to support their research works. With the recent developments and their challenges, libraries are expected to be of vital role in supporting research works to help combat the challenges met in the rapidly developing world.

In the nineteenth century, libraries were established for working people so that they could read books they could not afford to buy. Therefore these libraries made up for the inadequacies in the education system, stimulating reading and boosting literacy levels hence benefiting the society morally and economically. Lack of capacity to participate in the in the knowledge economy poses the danger of widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots which leads to dysfunctional social system. This is because only a few individuals will be heard. It’s every society dream to close the gap between the rich and the poor.

  1. Impact on the Economy

The existence of libraries has proved to be of positive impact to the economy. Writers of various literatures can now have their materials bought by libraries and get an income from them. The government also raises taxes in the process of buying and selling of various literatures through taxation.

There are a number of people who are not in a position to buy some books because of their high prices. The very existence of libraries is their last option since they register and borrow books from the libraries. They then use the books they have borrowed to gain knowledge which they use in their daily undertakings and hence impact the economy positively.

Most of the economic activities have shifted to online space. This has reduced the levels of economies bases on agriculture, manufacturing and industries. The advanced economies now move to economies based on knowledge, information and communication. Therefore, libraries are on the path to economic recovery and developments. Well-funded and utilized libraries are therefore most likely to revamp the economic structures in a positive manner.

Libraries have also been proven to increase creativity. When libraries embrace the use of technology they challenge the technology users to be more creative. When people read various literature available at libraries, they are challenged with new ways of approaching various problems which in turn increases their productivity.

When libraries adapt to changes in technologies, they procure new equipment and software from the various service providers which in turn boost sales and aids in tax collection for the national governments.

In broader cultural sense, liberal societies are as a result of knowledge societies in that they allow for divergent opinions. Therefore libraries have helped in expanding the democratic space since people can read widely and come up with opinions on governance and air them out. Libraries are known to house records of government history, the constitutions and their amendments, daily newspapers and others. Citizens are therefore able to read widely on matters of governance and engage the elected leaders with new opinions and challenges for the improvement. The use of ICTs which are now available in libraries have been proven to have expanded the democratic space since people can now share ideas from one place to another with a lot of ease. Social and economic changes have taken place as a result of effective information and communication. Therefore an effective information and communication infrastructure is required to further these gains. Libraries should therefore be trusted to further these gains since they are the founders of information society. Information and knowledge have always been linked to development of societies and civilizations. Since there is a continuous link between knowledge and civilization, libraries should be trusted with the future of civilization since they are the custodians of information and knowledge. It’s therefore apparent that libraries will play a major role in future civilization. A society which wants to have a positive impact on its civilization should invest in their libraries.


  1. Convenience of information access

Since there is a lot of information which needs to gathered and put together in a systematic way. Librarians are information professionals; this is because they are well conversant with the techniques of gathering information and making it available in a convenient way. The challenge people often encounter is where to get the information they need, in what format and at what time. Libraries have proved to be the answer to these questions. Libraries are able to provide the network infrastructure, the tools and the skills required by the visitors. This is common in public libraries. Since not everyone in society is able to adequately meet the technological changes, libraries remain the last hope for those marginalized from the information society. This is because they can get access to required technology like computers, they can have unlimited network access without being subjected to prohibitive costs and low speed internet connectivity. Those without ICT skills can easily ask for assistance from the library staff, they can also get coaching on how to get the information they require with a lot of ease. Therefore library continues to be the last hope for people who are in dire need of information and may be challenged in one way or the other. Libraries are strategically situated in accessible point by majority of the population hence getting information from them is easy. Since they are ideally situated in focal points, they become community hubs hence making it possible for people who wish to interact and share ideas with a lot of ease and collaborate with others.

  1. Social impact

Since young people are vulnerable to social and economic conditions, they require library services to help them understand well the dynamics of this world. They lack the finances to purchase the literature they require or the equipment’s they need to get information. They therefore rely heavily on libraries to help them achieve what they want. They also use library facilities during school holidays to help them consume their time positively.

Gender inequities with regard to technology have also been a major concern. The vulnerable being, they can really be disappointed if libraries are done away with. This is because libraries are the place where they can gain information equally with their male counterparts.

The existence of libraries has greatly enhanced the freedom of expression. Authors can now air their views in writing and readers can share the ideas created by authors.

  1. Intellectual property

Since libraries help create a public domain, it helps to protect the intellectual property. This helps the authors of different works to enjoy the legitimacy and economic benefits for a particular property for a period of time. This encourages creativity since individuals’ benefits from their protected works. Without libraries, several works could have been scattered that it could have been difficult to establish the true authors of a particular property.


Alice Crawford. The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History. Princeton University Press, 2015