In modem societies, every human activity is organized through institutions. Every major social task, whether economic performance or health care, education or research, business or industry is institutionalized. The protection of the environment or defence is today invariably entrusted to institutions and organizations. Libraries and other similar types of institutions are those that collect, stock, process, organize, disseminate and distribute information/knowledge recorded in documents. Since knowledge and information are so vital for all round human development, libraries and other institutions that handle and manage knowledge and information are indeed invaluable. In this Unit, you are introduced to the important role that libraries play in the educational process of formal and non-formal learning, in research and development, in cultural activities, in spiritual and ideological realms, in recreation and entertainment, etc. With spectacular advances in information technologies and increasing categories of users and their information needs in different situations, modern society is heading towards an information society in which the central instrument of change, force and direction of change are knowledge and information. All these ideas are discussed at some length in this Unit. Assimilation of these ideas is essential for you to get a full appreciation of the role of libraries. This will enable you to develop a proper insight into professional practice and performance. In the succeeding sections of this Unit, we shall discuss how the library plays its role.
2. NEEDS OF MODERN SOCIETY
As members of the modern society, we are all aware of its varied needs. Education is perhaps the most important among them, for it helps to mould a well informed, knowledgeable and responsible citizen who alone will be able to contribute to progress and advancement. Then there is the goal of the economic well being of society. Activities towards this end have to be sustained by technological developments brought about by research and the enormous amount of information it makes available to us. But `man does not live "by bread alone". There are deeper and finer instincts in the human being such as the spiritual and ideological instincts, cultural and aesthetic instincts and others which refine life and elevate it to a higher plane. A person also needs recreation during his/her leisure time, and unless there are facilities for constructive and competitive activities, his/her attention is likely to be diverted to negative and destructive avenues. The aim should be the development of a society that is able to lead a cultured, prosperous and fulfilled life, laying emphasis on certain basic values in life and adhering to them. It is the collective responsibility of members of society to make suitable arrangements for this purpose.
3. INSTITUTIONS FOUNDED BY SOCIETY
It is for the purpose of discharging this important responsibility that society has, over a long period of its existence, founded various institutions. Educational institutions like schools, colleges and universities, research institutions, cultural institutions, institutions of fine arts and recreation, business and industrial establishments and a host of others are some examples of such social institutions. The library is also one such institution. But, unlike the other institutions each of which concentrates on one or a few of the needs of society, the library is able to serve almost all its needs. If you are a student of a school, your primary task is the acquisition of knowledge prescribed for that level. And this will be mainly through oral communication from the teacher supplemented by the reading of a few prescribed text books. But in the library you are exposed to books on a variety of themes - books that will give you knowledge, bring to surface your latent aesthetic talents, stimulate your intellect,...