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Mission And Purpose Of Academic Libraries

People in every country and in every generation have always wanted access to libraries. It has been important to know that libraries were there to be used when required, even if it was not necessary to visit them very frequently. Librarians have made it either easy or difficult for people to visit libraries and to use the collections. Some librarians have not wanted their collections to be used! But even if a visit to a library has been a difficult or an infrequent matter, it has been important to the person concerned to know that the library was there and that the library might contain the information that was required. The first mission of libraries, therefore, has been to be there when they were required. It is not possible to create a library instantly. It takes time. So most libraries are passive institutions, waiting to be used. Nor is it possible to purchase books or pamphlets or journals instantaneously, even in the electronic age. The second mission of libraries, therefore, has been to acquire, to make accessible and to preserve information which a user may need, to have the information ready when the person realises their need for that information. The problem librarians have faced is that they cannot predict what future generations of users will require, and therefore they have tried to preserve everything.

Mission And Purpose Of Academic Libraries

Some people believe that the pace of change has become so rapid that the mission of libraries has to be redefined. Some would go further and say that libraries have no place in the next century, that all information will flow direct from its source to the user. The proposition I put forward for discussion in this conference is that we have to reinterpret the mission of libraries rather than redefine it. The mission libraries have fulfilled for centuries has to put on a new face and to dress in new clothes. We have to look for new ways of fulfilling that mission. We have to understand the ways in which the needs of library users are changing, because librarians are not the only people faced with change. I believe that fundamentally users of libraries are expecting us to fulfil the same role as in the past, to provide access to information when they need it and to preserve the records of our generation for posterity. As more and more people have access to the new technology, those expectations people have about libraries will grow rather than decline. Just as the transition from manuscripts to printed books led to a growth in literacy and consequently in the value of libraries, so I believe the growth in networked electronic information will make the role of libraries more rather than less important.

What we have to do is to use change as an opportunity rather than as a threat. We have to look for ways of harnessing change to fulfil the mission of libraries. The technological developments we are witnessing are already benefiting the service libraries provide to their users, and there are more benefits to be achieved. One of the most beneficial features of electronic information for libraries is the removal of the barrier of distance. One small example: the fact that I could sit in London 5000 miles from Beijing and look at the programme for this conference. It sounds so simple and yet in terms of library services it has revolutionary implications. No longer will people have to overcome the barrier of distance to use library services. We have to harness that change and use it to fulfil our mission to provide access to information when people need it. Distance-learning students can benefit from that revolution in access. Likewise our mission to preserve the cultural heritage can be enhanced rather than diminished by the opportunity to store large quantities of electronic text at low cost. And networking can free librarians from their obsession with on-site storage, which has been necessary to fulfil our mission in the age of paper but which will become irrelevant as more information appears in electronic format. Networking is a concept or an attitude as well as a technology. Preservation archiving of electronic information is important and the technological developments enable us to explore new models based upon co-operation and sharing of responsibilities.

In case you think that I am too idealistic, let me turn to the new barriers which are appearing to hinder our mission. There is a certainly a barrier to be overcome in the minds of librarians, who must have the imagination to take advantage of the new technology, but even the most visionary librarian will soon face the reality of financial and legal barriers to the fulfilment of this mission with a new face. I do not believe that the barriers are technical in nature. Although there are many features which we would like to see in the systems available to us, the technical advances are being made so quickly that almost anything librarians might wish to do in order to provide information to their users is within sight. The problem is whether we can afford the technological wonders at our disposal and whether the free-flow of information will face legal restrictions. Even in a small country like England, the cost of providing network connections from libraries to every village is huge, and for a country like China the cost of providing network connections from libraries to every village must be phenomenal. And then there is the cost of the information that is to be provided. How much information will continue to be available without charge? Will the owners of information want to restrict its use? An important part of the mission of libraries has been to act for the public good, so that people who need information are not prevented from obtaining information by its cost. The licensing of information is a matter which will directly affect the ability of librarians to fulfil their mission, in respect of both current access and long-term preservation. And, having secured permission for long-term preservation, there is the problem of what is to be preserved as the cultural record. Many electronic sources of information are very fluid, changing their content, adding new features. In choosing the point at which to freeze an electronic text and preserve it, the librarian will be making a cultural decision, and there are some who would wish to put legal barriers in the way of a librarian taking such a decision.

My hope is that you will have recognised something of what I have said today as being important in your own situation. Certainly I find that libraries in Europe and in North America have much that is in common. Often we share a common mission and face the same barriers in fulfilling that mission. We find that collaboration across international borders is important in showing political and commercial leaders what is necessary if libraries are to fulfil a valuable role in society. An example of such international collaboration has been the formation of the International Coalition of Library Consortia. I am sorry that I do not know very much about libraries in this part of the world, but a conference such as this is important in establishing whether we share a common vision of our mission in the twenty-first century. Reading the papers submitted by the participants in this conference I felt that we face very similar problems. The cultural differences which distinguish one nation from another are important and must be protected, and there are ways in which international collaboration can assist us in fulfilling our mission in our own society. I look forward to discussing these issues with you.

Values: Core values help shape our organizational culture and keep us focused on our mission. Values are important in decision-making, problem-solving, and educating ourselves and our users on what our libraries are about. Stating these values will help clarify our identity, the way we operate, and how we engage with one another and our users.

The City College Libraries are committed to providing high quality resources and services in a collaborative and collegial manner. We support the evolving instructional and research mission of the College, including sustainable technology and digital initiatives for the enhancement of research, teaching, and learning. We are dedicated to the education of the whole person, fostering information literacy and communication skills for academic and career success, and preparing a diverse population for service and leadership to our city, nation, and the world. We are a haven that is intentional in our effort to embody and promote inclusivity, equity, and understanding.

The Ike Skelton Combined Arms Research Library (CARL) is a dual missioned library serving the academic community of the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) and the military, family, military retiree, and civilian community of Fort Leavenworth.

Students at all of the campus libraries have access to study spaces; computer workstations; opportunities to print, and photocopy; and wireless access for electronic devices. Assistance with library resources is available in person or by telephone, email, and online chat (during the hours of operation of the Troy Campus Library). The Troy University Library on the Troy campus is a Federal Depository Library and it allows all users, including the general public, to access government documents freely. The Troy University reference librarians provide assistance and instruction by means of library guides, bibliographies, and tutorials; and live, librarian-led instructional sessions. Online guides include links to Web sites relevant to the academic programs.

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