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Library Orientation Programme

Library Tutorial

Know About Your Library

Dear Reader,

This tutorial is meant for library users. Everybody from the civilized world is expected to know about the word ‘Library’ as he/she knows about the ‘School’. However, some of us may use the library a lot, a little or not at all. It depends on individual choice. The education level and kind too determine the level of use of the library.

But I have found a lots of people who are not using the library (not at least to its optimum potential) because they understand a very little or not at all

  • What a Library is?
  • What is the purpose of its existence?
  • How it functions?
  • How to use a Library?

So, let me take these questions one-by-one.

What a library is?

To understand the concept of libraries lets start with their evolution. A library in the simplest words is a collection of books. It can be at a home (as a private library), at a school/college/university (as a academic library) or at a public/community place (as a public library). Libraries are not of any recent origin. They have been there since ages. They existed even before the paper and printing of books was invented. Every civilization has tried to preserve in some form or the other the knowledge that it generated for posterity. Before the invention of paper and printing press there were clay tablets, hence ‘clay tablet libraries’ (In ancient Egypt). Then bhoj patra or leaf of trees and barks (in ancient India) were used for writing. These manuscripts were rare as there were no means of producing multiple copies. All these were preserved in some sort of libraries. Only the privileged few had access to these libraries.

With the invention of paper in China and printing press in Germany it became possible to produce multiple copies of books. Also with the advancement of modern civilization into democracies number of educated people started multiplying and the demand for books also grew. So rose the needs for libraries, especially academic and public libraries. The growth of libraries gave rise to the need for specially trained professionals who can manage these libraries. Thus the ‘Library Science’ was born. With the growing need for specific pieces of information instead of the resources of information and application of Information Technology in the 2nd half of 20th century it further refined into ‘Library & Information Science’. It is a body of knowledge that develops professionals who are trained to organize, manage and disseminate knowledge.

Coming back to libraries, based on ownership the libraries have been divided into private libraries, academic libraries and public libraries. There is one more kind called ‘Special Libraries’. These are libraries that serve a special kind of users, from a special kind of organization i.e. a research library.

What is the purpose of its existence?

The libraries came into existence to serve the masses, initially privileged few only but now everybody. They are there as a gift from the community they belong to. There is no need for justification of their existence as there is none for the existence of schools. But some factors are there that make them almost vital. Here are a few of them,

  • The knowledge is multiplying all the time. There seems no limit. So are the resources of knowledge i.e. books, journals etc. Everybody can’t buy every resource/book he/she needs.
  • Even if one can afford all the resources he/she needs what after he/she has consulted them? These won’t be needed for long so may seem to be a wastage of money. It would have been better to consult them from a library.
  • Also not all resources are available for sale in the market. Some are rare/out of print books/documents too. It is not possible for the individuals to preserve these for long due to the costs involved and the kind of specialization needed for the job. It is the responsibility of the library to preserve and make available such resources to those who need them.
  • The libraries also offer an ideal environment for silent reading/serious study. Almost all the people that you are going to find there will be readers like you. You won’t find a more suitable place under sun and moon for multiplying/polishing your knowledge than your library.
  • Library collections are vast and multi-disciplinary in nature. You can find books/documents/resources there not only on your own subject of study what many other related/unrelated subjects too. This widens your scope of study and sometime may offer approaches from different perspective than you can think of, resulting in never-thought-of results.

These are just a few of the benefits that a library can offer. In the simplest terms library are there for you as lifelong friends. Join at least one of them and make as much use as possible. Trust me time spent at a library will be the best utilization of your precious time.

How it functions?

Any kind of library broadly does four types of job.

  • It acquires/accumulates knowledge in print/non-print form,
  • Organizes it in some form,
  • Manages the collection of knowledge and
  • Disseminates it as resources of knowledge or as pin pointed knowledge.

In simple terms the library acquires through purchase, gifts or other means books and other kinds of materials, arranges these in a manner so that they can be retrieved easily when required and provide to the reader/library user either these books/documents as resources of information or the piece of information as reference service.

How to use a library?

Libraries are store house of knowledge. A good library has resources on almost all the subjects of interest to its users. You come to the library either to learn something new or simply to entertain yourself with literary works (fiction, non-fiction). In both the cases you have some idea of what kind of resources you need. Your 1st task on entering the library is to find answer to two questions

  • What the library has on your area of interest and
  • Where it is?

The librarians and library professional know the importance of these two questions. So they developed two systems Cataloguing and Classification.

Cataloguing: Every good library maintains an up to date and comprehensive catalogue. A catalogue answers the 1st question i.e. what the library has? It is the 1st access point to the collection of the library so it should be first thing to be consulted on entering a library. Most probably this will answer all your questions. You can find from the catalogue if the library has the resources/documents you need and if it has then it will direct you where to look for them. Broadly there are two types of catalogues, i.e. Traditional Card Catalogue and OPAC.

Card Catalogue: A traditional catalogue uses paper cards (called catalogue cards). These cards are specially designed with areas specified for different pieces of information, like author, title, subject and notes etc. These cards are kept in trays in a specially designed catalogue card cabinet. Different kinds of enteries are made into these cards depending on the cataloguing code or scheme used and the discretion of the cataloguer. The most common are Title, Author and Subject. Based on these kinds of enteries there can be one or more cards for each book.

Different kinds of catalogues exist in libraries, but the most common is the dictionary catalogue. As is understandable from the name all the cards (author, title and subject etc.) are arranged alphabetically in the dictionary format. The cards trays are marked alphabetically to ease the search. Apart from the dictionary catalogue there can be subject only catalogue called subject list, title catalogue or author catalogue etc. But these are very less common.

How to search? These card catalogues are searched usually with author, title or subject term like in a dictionary. Each card that you locate with the relevant term contains some other details also. You can verify from the information provided if it is the right book/document you are looking for. If so note down the call number (combination of class number and book number, discussed later). This call number will lead you to the book/document on the shelves.

The most used cataloguing codes or standards are (Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules Version-2) AACR-2 and (Classified Cataloguing Code) CCC. CCC is fast diminishing now.

OPAC: Online Public Access Catalogue is electronic version of the traditional card catalogue. It may be available online over the internet (sometimes termed as Web-OPAC) or limited to be accessible within the library premises only on library local LAN or within the campus. It is far more easy to use, offering keyword searching. The search results also contain more information than a traditional catalogue card. Sometime they may contain a link to full text resource/document itself.

Classification: Classification answers the second question, where it (resource/document) is? Books in libraries are not just put into the almirahs as they come but are processed by the technical staff of the library. Books are classified (in simple terms categorized) according to one of the many existing standards called classification schemes. The purpose of these classification schemes is to assign a class number (artificial notation or number) to each and every book according to the subject it represents. Then these are arranged on the shelves according to this notation or number. This ensures that book sharing a common subject will be found all at the same place.

The most commonly used classification schemes are Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC), Universal Decimal Classification (UDC), Colon Classification (CC) and Library of Congress Classification (LCC). Among these DDC is the most common. More than 90% libraries around the world are using DDC. So chances are your library is also using the same.

Book Number: To ease up the things further a book number is assigned along with the class number. This number is also constructed using some standards although some local conventions are also known to exist in some libraries. But no matter standard or locally constructed the purpose of book number is to distinguish the book within a subject class, from its author and title. The purpose of book number is that the books written by the same author will be found at one place.

The most commonly used book numbering standard used in the libraries is the Cutter Register.

Note: This tutorial is not specific to any particular library but general and applies to all. It is strongly advised that you consult the library staff of your library to know what kind of systems they are using for management of their library and also you should attend ‘Library Orientation’ programmes organized by the library from time to time.



Title - Library Orientation | Author - PunLib | Article ID - 00000000004 | Last Updated - 2013-03-30 02:02:28 | Keywords - User Education, Book Borrowing, How to Locate a Book, Library Use

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