A Survey of Collection and Services of Medical College Libraries

A Survey of Collection and Services of Medical College Libraries in Uttar Pradesh: Prospects, Problems and Proposal for their Modernization

Introduction

Libraries are the soul of any research or academic institution. They form the most vital forum of education, especially in the field of technical education. Due to the rapid pace of development taking place in various fields of science and technology (S and T) it become imperative for the libraries to remain up-to-date with the latest advances in technology so that the dissemination of information becomes efficient, quick, feasible, economic, accessible and useful.

The utility of a library depends largely on its collection. Therefore, it is very important that utmost care should be taken to select and maintain a good and strong collection of documents such as books, periodicals, hand books, reference books, dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias and various other related information. Building and developing a library collection able to meet the needs of users, such as scientists, students, research scholars and others adequately is a major task of a good library. The quality of services provided and the satisfaction of the users depend a great deal upon the kinds of collections made available. A comprehensive, balanced and up-to-date collection is to have documents of different types in various physical forms to satisfy the informational needs of the users.

The basic aim of a library is to provide efficient services to its users. Therefore, user satisfaction should be the main goal of a good librarian. This goal can not be achieved unless and until the library management has got a clear idea about the user needs and demands. The library should be well-equipped besides having a good and strong collection of documents. Variety of services should be offered to cater to the needs of its users. Latest and up-to-date technology should be adopted in order to provide better services.

In the modern era of information explosion which has led to the evolution of multidisciplinary domains in the different fields of S and T the user demand and expectations have grown tremendously. In order to meet this challenge the library should be well equipped with the modern tools of information storage and its retrieval so that the right information is made available to the right user at the right place and at the right time.

With the advent of computers and Internet a transformation is taking place in the information infrastructure leading to the development of digital or electronic libraries. The latest advances in the field of information technology, telecommunications, software, networking, multimedia and scanning technology have produced a revolutionary change in the field of library and information technology. Networking technologies have resulted in the creation of virtual or on-line libraries which are immensely popular with the users and proving to be a boon for the society as a whole due to the instant access of information anytime and anywhere in the world. Thus the barriers of time and space have been shattered and the vast world has been reduced into a “global village” where anyone can have immediate access to the information of his/her choice by using the techniques of computer software, networking and scanning technologies.

A digital library may be defined as an electronic version of a traditional library where all the information is stored and preserved in digital form. In a digital library the data accessed includes non-text information such as photographs, drawings, illustrations, works of art; streams of numeric data (satellite information, cosmological data); digitized sound and moving visual images and 3 D representations (holograms) besides traditional text based information.

There are many Allopathic Medical Colleges in Uttar Pradesh where digitization and networking of libraries can give a big boost not only to the enhancement of the quality and standard of services available in the hospitals but also help to a great extent in the promotion of medical studies and research. But the implementation of this process of digitization and networking of libraries depends a great deal upon the role and attitude of the librarians towards this comprehensive process for its success.

Review of literature

Many sources of information both published and unpublished have been consulted to develop a clear concept of the proposed study. It has been observed that the digitization and networking process in the field of library and information science has helped to a great extent in the effective and instant dissemination of right information at right cost at right time to the right user.

OBJECTIVES

The objectives of the proposed study are as follows:

1) To assess the role and attitude of librarians in the success of the digitization and networking process in the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in U.P.

2) To study the size and nature of collection in the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in U.P.

3) To examine the level of digitization in the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in U.P.

4) To study the methods employed for digitization and networking in the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in U.P.

5) To study the existing library services and facilities offered by the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in U.P.

6) To study the digitization and networking process in the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in U.P.

7) To study the effectiveness and efficiency of the digitization and networking process in the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in U.P.

8) To assess the demand and popularity of the digitization and networking process in the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in U.P.

9) To study the problems and challenges faced by librarians in the process of digitization and networking in the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in U.P.

10) To make suggestions for improvement in the process of digitization and networking in the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in U.P.

11) To discover the limitations in the process of digitization and networking in the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in U.P.

Scope

This study will be based on the survey of the libraries of the Allopathic Medical Colleges in Uttar Pradesh. For this purpose the libraries of only those Allopathic Medical Colleges are included which have been approved by the Medical Council of India (MCI) to run MBBS course of study and entitled to award the degree of MBBS and other degrees related to Allopathic Medicine and Surgery. The names of such Allopathic Medical Colleges selected for the proposed study are given below: –

  1. S.N. Medical College, Agra.
  2. G.S.V.M. Medical College, Kanpur.
  3. Institute of Medical sciences, B.H.U, Varanasi.
  4. Moti Lal Nehru Medical College, Allahabad.
  5. Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College, Aligarh.
  6. L.L.R.M. Medical College, Meerut.
  7. Maharani Laxmi Bai Medical College, Jhansi.
  8. B.R.D. Medical College, Gorakhpur.
  9. Santosh Medical College, Ghaziabad.
  10. Sardar Patel Institute of Dental and Medical Sciences, Lucknow.
  11. Era Lucknow Medical College, Lucknow.
  12. Subharati Medical College, Meerut

HYPOTHESES

A hypothesis may be considered as a tentative generalization of the problem under investigation. It is meant to provide the researcher with an opportunity (prior to the actual data collection) to predict the results of the study. A hypothesis is an expectation about events or a shrewd guess or a prediction of the results of the study.

As hypotheses are predictions, therefore, these are formulated before the collection of data. No hypothesis should be formulated once the data are known.

The following hypotheses have been formulated for the proposed study: –

1) The libraries of the Allopathic Medical Colleges in Uttar Pradesh are having a rich collection of documents.

2) The Allopathic Medical Colleges’ Libraries are providing a variety of services to their users.

3) The libraries of the Allopathic Medical Colleges in Uttar Pradesh are facing certain problems.

4) There is an urgent need for the modernization of the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in Uttar Pradesh according to the latest techniques such as digitization and networking of libraries.

Methodology

It is planned to adopt the following method for the completion of the proposed study: –

1) Literature Search: – It shall be done by consulting the vast literature existing on the subject of digitization and networking. For this purpose different books by noted authors as well as journals and seminar papers will be studied thoroughly.

2) Questionnaire: – In order to conduct the proposed study the most important tool for the collection of data is the questionnaire. Therefore, a comprehensive questionnaire shall be designed to collect all the important and relevant data. This questionnaire shall be sent to the librarians of the concerned libraries. After obtaining the filled questionnaire the data shall be analyzed and interpreted according to the objectives of the proposed study.

3) Library Survey: – It is planned to conduct library survey for a systematic collection of data concerning libraries, their activities, operations, staff, use and users, at a given time or over a given period.

4) Interview of Librarians: – In order to collect the accurate data and obtain the views and opinion of the librarians of the concerned libraries it is also proposed to conduct personal interviews of the concerned librarians.

UTILITY OF THE STUDY

The following may be the utilities of the proposed study: –

1) It may be helpful in finding out the problems and difficulties faced by the librarians of the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in Uttar Pradesh.

2) It may be helpful to the concerned authorities in the effective implementation of the digitization and networking process.

3) It may be helpful in finding out the prospects of the adoption digitization and networking process of the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in Uttar Pradesh.

4) It may help in finding out the solution to some of those problems, which are retarding the progress of the digitization and networking process in the libraries.

5) It may be helpful to the libraries of Allopathic Medical Colleges in resource sharing and connecting with each other via networking.

CHAPTER WISE BREAKUP

The proposed study will be divided into seven chapters, which are as follows: –

Chapter – One Introduction

Chapter – Two Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Allopathic Medical Colleges in U.P.: An overview.

Chapter -Three Allopathic Medical Colleges’ libraries in U.P.: Present status and functions

Chapter- Four Digitization and Networking process in libraries and information centers: A brief background.

Chapter-Five Present status of digitization and networking process in the libraries of Allopathic Medical colleges in U.P.

Chapter-Six Comparative study of the status of the digitization and networking process in the libraries of Allopathic Medical colleges in U.P.

Chapter – Seven Conclusion and Suggestions.

Use of RFID Technology in Libraries: An Automated Metheod of Circulation, Security, Tracking and…

1. Introduction

RFID is an acronym for Radio Frequency Identification. It is a technology that allows an item, for example a library book to be tracked and communicated with by radio waves. This technology is similar in concept to a Cell Phone.

Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a broad term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. There are several methods of identification, but the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a person or object, and perhaps other information, on a microchip that is attached to an antenna (the chip and the antenna together are called an RFID transponder or an RFID tag). The antenna enables the chip to transmit the identification information to a reader. The reader converts the radio waves reflected back from the RFID tag into digital information that can then be passed on to computers that can make use of it.

2.Concept of RFID for Libraries

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is the latest technology to be used in library circulation operations and theft detection systems. RFID-based systems move beyond security to become tracking systems that combine security with more efficient tracking of materials throughout the library, including easier and faster charge and discharge, inventorying, and materials handling.

This technology helps librarians reduce valuable staff time spent scanning barcodes while checking out and checking in borrowed items.

RFID is a combination of radio -frequency-based technology and microchip technology. The information contained on microchips in the tags affixed to library materials is read using radio frequency technology regardless of item orientation or alignment (i.e., the technology does not require line-of-sight or a fixed plane to read tags as do traditional theft detection systems). The RFID gates at the library exit(s) can be as wide as four feet because the tags can be read at a distance of up to two feet by each of two parallel exit gate sensors.

2.1 Components of an RFID System

A comprehensive RFID system has four components:

(1) RFID tags that are electronically programmed with unique information;

(2) Readers or sensors to query the tags;

(3) Antenna; and

(4) Server on which the software that interfaces with the integrated library software is loaded.

2.1.1Tags

The heart of the system is the RFID tag, which can be fixed inside a book’s back cover or directly onto CDs and videos. This tag is equipped with a programmeable chip and an antenna. Each paper-thin tag contains an engraved antenna and a microchip with a capacity of at least 64 bits. There are three types of tags: “read only”, “WORM,” and “read/write.

“Tags are “read only” if the identification is encoded at the time of manufacture and not rewritable.

“WORM” (Write-Once-Read-Many)” tags are programmed by the using organization, but without the ability of rewriting them later.

“Read/write tags,” which are chosen by most libraries, can have information changed or added. In RFID library, it is common to have part of the read/write tag secured against rewriting, e.g., the identification number of the item.

2.1.2 Readers

The reader powers an antenna to generate an RF field. When a tag passes through the field, the information stored on the chip in the tag is interpreted by the reader and sent to the server, which, in turn, communicates with the Integrated library system when the RFID system is interfaced with it.

RFID exit gate sensors (readers) at exits are basically two types. One type reads the information on the tag(s) going by and communicates that information to a server. The server, after checking against the circulation database, turn on an alarm if the material is not properly checked-out. Another type relies on a “theft” byte in the tag that is turned on or off to show that the item has been charged or not. It is then not necessary to communicate with the circulation database.

Readers in RFID library are used in the following ways:

Conversion station-where library data is written to the tag;

Staff workstation at circulation- used to charge and discharge library materials;

Self check-out station-used to check-out library materials without staff assistance;

Self check-in station-used to check in books etc. without staff assistance;

Exit sensors- to verify that all the books etc. leaving the library have been checked-out;

Book-drop reader- used to automatically discharge library materials and reactivate security.

Sorter and conveyor-automated system for returning books etc. to proper area of library;

Hand-held reader-used for inventorying and verifying that books etc. are shelved correctly.

2.1.3 Antenna

The antenna produces radio signals to activate the tag and read and write data to it. Antennas are the channels between the tag and the reader, which controls the system’s data acquisitons and communication. The electromagnetic field produced by an antenna can be constantly present when multiple tags are expected continually. Antennas can be built into a doorframe to receive tag data from person’s things passing through the door.

2.1.4 Server

The server is the heart of some comprehensive RFID systems. It is the communications gateway among the various components. It receives the information from one or more of the readers and exchanges information with the circulation database. Its software includes the SIP/SIP2 (Session Initiation Protocol), APIs (Applications Programming Interface) NCIP or SLNP necessary to interface it with the integrated library software. The server typically includes a transaction database so that reports can be produced.

2.2 Optional Components

Optional RFID system includes the following three components:

1. RFID Label Printer

2. Handheld Reader

3. External Book Return

1. RFID label Printer

An RFID-printer is used to print the labels with an individual barcode, library logo etc. When the print is applied, it simultaneously programmed the data in to the chip. After this process, the RFID label is taken from the printer and self-adhered to the book. It also checks each RFID label for function.

2. Handheld Reader/Inventory Wand

The portable Handheld Reader or inventory wand can be moved along the items on the shelves without touching them. The data goes to a storage unit, which can be downloaded at a server later on, or it can go to a unit, which will transmit it to the server using wireless technology. The inventory wand will cover three requirements:

· Screen the complete book collection on the shelves for inventory control.

· Search for books, which are mis-shelved.

· Search for individual book requested.

Other applications can be written for the inventory wand, since the system utilizes a personal data terminal (PDT).

3. External Book Return

Libraries can offer a distinct service, which is very useful for users like ability to return books during off hours. External book return is a machine with a slot with a chip RFID reader integrated into the wall. It works the same way as the Self Check –Out Station. The user identifies himself/herself (if required by the library), and then puts the book(s) in to the slot. Upon completing his/her return, the user will receive a receipt showing how many and which books were returned. Since they have already been checked-in, they can go directly back onto the shelves. These units can also be used with sorter and conveyor systems.

3. Key Features of RFID in library

The reliability of the system, its ease of operation, and the flexibility of tagging all kinds of media easily, is important criteria in choosing an RFID system. The main aim for today’s libraries to adopt RFID is the need to increase efficiency and reduce cost. Automation and self-service can help libraries of all sizes toward achieving these aims, and RFID has the added advantage that it can also provide security for the range of different media on offer in libraries. The technology can also improve circulation and inventory control, which helps to optimise the allocation of labour and financial resources. This means that libraries can relieve their professional employees of routine work and operational tasks.

All of the tags used in RFID technology for libraries are “passive.” The power to read the tags comes from the reader or exit sensor (reader), rather than from a battery within the tag.

A few libraries use “smart” card, which is an RFID card with additional encryption, is an alternative to merely adding an RFID tag on staff and user identification cards. Not only does that identify users for issue and return of library materials, but also for access to restricted areas or services. This would make it possible to make it into a “debit” card, with value added upon pre-payment to the library and value subtracted when a user used a photocopier, printer, or other fee-based device, or wished to pay fines or fees.

3.1 Speedy and Easy User self-charging/discharging

The use of RFID reduces the amount of time required to perform circulation operations. This technology helps librarians eliminate valuable staff time spent scanning barcodes while checking out and checking in borrowed items. For the users, RFID speeds up the borrowing and returns procedures. The Library professionals, instead of scanning bar codes all day long in front of a queue of users, are released for more productive and interesting duties. Staff is relieved further when readers are installed in book drops.

3.2 Reliability

The readers are highly reliable. Several vendors of RFID library systems claim an almost 100 percent detection rate using RFID tags.

Some RFID systems have an interface between the exit sensors and the circulation software to identify the items moving out of the library. Were a library user to run out of the library and not be catched, the library would at least know what had been stolen. If the user card also has an RFID tag, the library will also be able to determine who removed the items without properly charging them.

Other RFID systems encode the circulation status on the RFID tag. This is done by designating a bit as the “theft” bit and turning it off at time of charge and on at time of discharge. If the material that has not been properly charged is taken past the exit gate sensors, an immediate alarm is triggered. Another option is to use both the “theft” bit and the online interface to an integrated library system, the first to signal an immediate alarm and the second to identify what has been taken out.

3.3 High-speed inventorying

A unique advantage of RFID systems is their ability to scan books on the shelves without tipping them out or removing them. A hand-held inventory reader can be moved rapidly across a shelf of books to read all of the unique identification information. Using wireless technology, it is possible not only to update the inventory, but also to identify items, which are out of proper order.

3.4 Automated materials handling

Another application of RFID technology is automated materials handling. This includes conveyor and sorting systems that can move library materials and sort them by category into separate bins or onto separate carts. This significantly reduces the amount of staff time required to ready materials for re-shelving.

3.5 Tag life

RFID tags last longer than barcodes because, the technology does not require line-of-sight. Most RFID vendors claim a minimum of 100,000 transactions before a tag may need to be replaced.

4. Demerits of RFID Systems

4.1 High cost

The major disadvantage of RFID technology is its cost. While the readers and gate sensors used to read the information typically cost around $1,500 to $2,500 each; and the tags cost $.40 to $.75 each.

4.2 Accessibility to compromise

It is possible to compromise an RFID system by wrapping the protected material in two to three layers of ordinary household foil to block the radio signal. It is also possible to compromise an RFID system by placing two items against one another so that one tag overlays another. That may cancel out the signals. This requires knowledge of the technology and careful alignment.

4.3 Removal of exposed tags

RFID tags are typically affixed to the inside back cover and are exposed for removal. This means that there would be problems when users become more familiar with the role of the tags. In Indian libraries this is a major challenge to keep the tags intact.

4.4 Exit gate sensor (Reader) problems

While the short-range readers used for circulation charge and discharge and inventorying appear to read the tags 100 percent of the time, the performance of the exit gate sensors is more problematic. They always don’t read tags at up to twice the distance of the other readers. There is no library that has done a before and after inventory to determine the loss rate when RFID is used for security.

4.5 Invasion of User Privacy

Privacy concerns associated with item-level tagging is another significant barrier to library use of RFID tags. The problem with today’s library RFID system is that the tags contain static information that can be relatively easily read by unauthorized tag readers. This allows for privacy issues described as “tracking” and “hotlisting”.

Tracking refers to the ability to track the movements of a book (or person carrying the book) by “correlating multiple observations of the book’s bar code” or RFID tag. Hotlisting refers to the process of building a database of books and their associated tag numbers (the hotlist) and then using an unauthorized reader to determine who is checking out items in the hotlist.

4.6 Reader collision

One problem meet with RFID is the signal from one reader can interfere with the signal from another where coverage overlaps. This is called reader collision. One way to avoid the problem is to use a technique called time division multiple access, or TDMA. In simple terms, the readers are instructed to read at different times, rather than both trying to read at the same time. This ensures that they don’t interfere with each other. But it means any RFID tag in an area where two readers overlap will be read twice.

4.7 Tag collision

Another problem readers have is reading a lot of chips in the same field. Tag clash occurs when more than one chip reflects back a signal at the same time, confusing the reader. Different vendors have developed different systems for having the tags respond to the reader one at a time. Since they can be read in milliseconds, it appears that all the tags are being read simultaneously.

4.8 Lack of Standard

The tags used by library RFID vendors are not compatible even when they conform to the same standards because the current standards only seek electronic compatibility between tags and readers. The pattern of encoding information and the software that processes the information differs from vendor to vendor, therefore, a change from one vendor’s system to the other would require retagging all items or modifying the software.

5. Best Practices guidelines for Libraries

As libraries are implementing RFID systems, it is important to develop best practices guidelines to utilize the technology in best way and to keep the privacy concern away. The following may be the best practices guidelines for library RFID use:

· The Library should be open about its use of RFID technology including providing publicly available documents stating the rational for using RFID, objectives of its use and associated policies and procedure and who to contact with questions.

· Signs should be pasted at all facilities using RFID. The signs should inform the public that RFID technology is in use, the types of usage and a statement of protection of privacy and how this technology differs from other information collection methods.

· Only authorized personnel should have access to the RFID system.

· No personal information should be stored on the RFID tag.

· Information describing the tagged item should be encrypted on the tag even if the data is limited to a serial number

· No static information should be contained on the tag (bar code, manufacturer number) that can be read by unauthorised readers.

· All communication between tag and reader should be encrypted via a unique encryption key.

· All RFID readers in the library should be clearly marked.

· ISO 18000 mode-2 tags should be used rather than ISO 15693.

6. Installations

While there are over 500,000 RFID systems installed in warehouses and retail establishments worldwide, RFID systems are still relatively new in libraries. Fewer than 150 had been installed as of the 2004.

Most installations are small, primarily in branch libraries. The University of Connecticut Library; University of Nevada/Las Vegas Library, the Vienna Public Library in Austria, the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, and the National University of Singapore Library are the only sites that appear to have tagged more than 500,000 items each.
So far in India only two University libraries have Installed the RFID system. First among them is Jayakar Library of Pune University and second is Dhanvantri Library of Jammu University. The use of RFID throughout Indian libraries will take at least four to five years.

7. Recent Developments

Recent developments in hardware and software for RFID systems have increased the potential of this technology in library automation and security. ‘Today, the one important result for libraries is the ability to use non-proprietary systems, now that the new generation of RFID-chips with standard ISO 15693 (to be integrated into ISO 18000-3) is available,’ explains Dr Christian Kern, system development manager of Bibliotheca RFID Library Systems, a Swiss company specialising in such systems for libraries. ‘With this technology, libraries do not have to depend on one single supplier for tags. As libraries make a long-term investment, which mainly consists of the quantity of tags needed, this is a very important requirement.’

8. Vendors

The products of six manufacturers of library RFID systems are available in India through their business associates: Bibliotheca, Checkpoint, ID Systems, 3M, X-ident technology GmbH represented by Infotek software and systems in India and TAGSYS— the last represented by Tech Logic, Vernon, Libsys in India and VTLS .

There are several other companies that provide products that work with RFID, including user self-charging stations and materials handling equipment.

Conclusion

It is quite clear from the above discussion that an RFID system may be a comprehensive system that addresses both the security and materials tracking needs of a library. RFID in the library is not a threat if best practices guidelines followed religiously, that it speeds up book borrowing and inventories and frees staff to do more user-service tasks. The technology saves money too and quickly gives a return on investment.

As far as privacy issue is concerned it is important to educate library staff and library users about the RFID technology used in libraries before implementing a program.

It may be good for librarians to wait and watch the developments in RFID for some time before the cost of tags comes down to $.20 or less, the figure which librarians has determined is the key to their serious consideration for the use of technology.

While library RFID systems have a great deal in common with one another, including the use of high frequency (13.56 MHz), passive, read-write tags. Lack of Standard and Compatibility of tags produced by different vendors is a major problem in implementation of RFID in Libraries. Current standards (ISO 15693) apply to container level tagging used in supply chain applications and do not address problems of tracking and hot listing. Next generation tags (ISO 18000) are designed for item level tagging. The newer tags are capable of resolving many of the privacy problems of today’s tags. However, no library RFID products are currently available using the new standard. Apart from that cost of the RFID Tags and equipments is also a major problem for libraries to implement the same in a developing country like India.

References:

Ayre, Lori Bowen, The Galecia Group (August 2004) Position paper: RFID and libraries. Retrived from [http://www.galecia.com/weblog/mt/archives/cat_rfidandwireless.php]

Berkeley Public Library (n.d.) Berkeley Public Library: Best Practices for RFID technology. Retrieved from [http://berkeleypubliclibrary.org/BESTPRAC.pdf].

BIBLIOTHECA RFID Library Systems AG (2003) RFID Technology Overview
Retrieved from http://www.bibliotheca-rfid.com

Boss. R. W. (2003). RFID technology for libraries [Monograph]. Library Technology Reports. November-December 2003.

Boss. R. W. PLA Tech Notes (May 14, 2004) RFID Technology for libraries. Retrieved from [http://www.ala.org/ala/pla/plapubs/technotes/rfidtechnology.htm]

FAQ RFID Journal (OnlineVersion) Retrieved from http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/207

Koppel, T. (March 2004). Standards in Libraries: What’s Ahead: a guide for Library Professional about the Library Standards of Today and the Future. The Library Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.tlcdelivers.com/tlc/pdf/standardswp.pdf.

Molnar, D., Wagner, D. A. (June 2004). Privacy and security in library RFID: Issues, practices and architectures. Retrieved from [http://www.cs.berkeley.edu~dmolnar/library].

Sarma, E. S. Weis, S. A., Engels, D.W. (November 2002). White paper: RFID systems, security & privacy implications. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, AUTO-ID Center.

Marketing Public Library Services in Sierra Leone

Introduction

The concept of instituting marketing principles to non-profit institutions such as library and information Services is no longer a controversy. Organisations operate in an environment of change. Today we live in a global market for many goods and services in which technology, purchasing power and many factors change on a regular basis. One of the key functions of marketing is to find out how these changes affect clientele’s wants and needs and to develop organisational strategies and plans that will ensure that the library meets these challenges (Dransfield and Needham, 1995). It is therefore not surprising that public librarians are joining the marketing bandwagon. This article explores the marketing activities in the operations of the Sierra Leone Public Library services.

Public Libraries

A Public Library is funded wholly and partly from public funds and the use of which is not restricted to any class persons in the community but freely available to all. It is a major agency of enlightenment for adults, providing for children the recorded experiences of others which will help them grow into adults.

Usherhood (1981) defined Public Library as an organization established, supported and funded by the community, either through local, regional or national government or through some form of or other community organization. It provides access to knowledge, information and works of imagination through a range of resources and services and equally available to members of the public community regardless of race, nationality, economic and employment status and educational attainment.

The Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB)

The Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB) was established by Ordinance in June, 1959. The setting up of the Board was envisaged in the Government’s White Paper on Educational Development in 1958 and its functions outlined therein as follows:

• To provide a national/public library Service;
• To support and reinforce programmes of adult and fundamental education;
• To provide effective services for children and young adults including requisite services to schools;
• To provide much needed information and references services;
• To provide where needed adequate services for special groups, that is women and girls, language groups.

The Central Library is designed to give public services to Freetown and also to function as headquarter of the National/Public Library services and to provide accommodation for a growing collection of book and non-book materials in the country. It does all technical processing of stock for the Regional and Branch Libraries and has an Adult Lending Reference and a Children’s department.

Libraries are charged with responsibility to provide information service to support educational, recreation and personal endeavours of the members of their respective communities and the Sierra Leone Library Board is not an exception to that. The following services are provided at the Sierra Leone Library Board to Clientele:

Children Services

The Sierra Leone Library Board provides information services to children by the provision of books and other materials for children which are often housed in a special section known as the Children’s Library. A special service for children known as child orientated educational programme specially designed for younger library users is included in the children’s library services. They also provide services to children through storytelling, drama/play and reading aloud.

Book Borrowing and Lending Service

The main task of Sierra Leone Library Board is to provide the public with access to books and periodicals. The Sierra Leone Library Board typically offers access to a variety of books which are available for borrowing by anyone with the appropriate library card.

Current Awareness Service

At the Sierra Leone Library Board, current awareness service is aimed at bringing to the notice of potential users, newly available documents and information services. This is done by collating information and producing new secondary sources, circulating current periodicals or other documents acquired and producing and distributing one or more forms of bulletins.

Selective Dissemination of Information

A more personal information service is being run at the Sierra Leone Library Board in which the library constantly notifies library users about particular information/materials matching them in a profile of the information needs and research pre-occupation of their clientele. This is done by either bringing references to relevant items to the notice of their clients and by obtaining copies and then supply the documents themselves to library users.

Outreach Services

The Sierra Leone Library Board provides outreach information services which is committed to developing library outreach programmes for non-users, the undeserved, and people with special needs in the communities in restricted areas.

Computer and Internet Services

In an attempt to bridge the digital divide, information resources and government services are being provided online by the Sierra Leone Library Board. This is done by providing access to the Internet and public computers for users who otherwise would not be able to connect to these services.

Library Marketing

Marketing is often viewed as a set of strategies and techniques that belongs to administrators outside of librarianship. But, librarians are also involved in the marketing process. The essence of marketing involves finding out users needs and want, then setting out to meet these needs.

Marketing according to Weingand (1995) “can be viewed as a process of exchange and a way to foster partnership between the library and its community” (p.296). In order to maintain the relationship between the public library and the community, marketing strategies have to be employed as effective tool.

Marketing in the public library means more than simply promotion or selling. It is more concerned about user needs. Marketing the Public Library is a social and managerial process by which products and services as well as values are exchanged in order to fulfill individuals or group needs. Marketing refers to those instruments through which information, both raw and processed, are transmitted to its members. Promotion or campaigning is but two activities in the broader exercise of marketing

Planning Library Marketing Programmes

The continued existence of libraries, if not their survivals, may well depend upon the use of marketing and planning strategies, communicated through effective public relations, to significantly alter the perceived role and position of the library in society.

In a real sense, Public Relation is the promotion component of a full marketing plan of library programmes. It can be seen as the communicated module which serves the promotion function; conversely, it may be easily depicted as a philosophical relationship between library and community which serves as a guiding light for promotion activities.

Both communication and research skills serve well in the marketing planning process of which Public Relations is an important component. Specific skills and knowledge are also needed in marketing planning programs for libraries. It goes without saying that both ongoing marketing planning and programmes, and in particular, how the needs of different groups of users differ from each other. Library and information services are complex entities, as are the human users and potential users of these services.

Planning, promotion and campaigning are but all activities in the boarder exercise of marketing. User studies therefore, have a very wide range of uses in relation to the planning of library marketing programmes of a service. They contribute in the planning, promotion and development of library services. In their contribution they help in the understanding of different user group behaviour and their needs, and can assist in effective campaigning and planning process.

Three steps to planning library marketing programmes are:

• Knowing what your beliefs are and therefore what you want to achieve;
• Communicating these beliefs as practical objectives to the people with whom you work, in order that these objectives can be fulfilled; and
• Creating a vehicle which allows this to happen. This can only be achieved by defining the basic components and through organization.

Methods of marketing in Sierra Leone Library Board

Book Displays and Exhibitions

Displays and exhibitions are widely used in most public libraries as a marketing strategy to sell their products or items. The SLLB displays jackets of new books which are not yet included in the lending department for easy access by users and to increase usage. It is also a means of drawing the attention of users and non-users to particular aspects of library resources and services.

Printed materials and Publications

In order to make a very good image of the public library and for public librarians to establish better communication between the library and users, publicity programmes are put in place by the management of the Sierra Leone Library Board through news release. The management also considers annual reports and newspapers as basic publicity techniques. Publications such as bibliographies, guides and brochures are used by the library to communicate with the wider public.

Public Relations Office

Public relations according to Usherhood (1981) is concerned with gaining of public support for an activity, cause, movement or institution. It is a process that furthers mental understanding and cooperation between a government; or any organisation and its various publics. The Sierra Leone Library Board has a Public Relations Office charged with the responsibility to enhance a smooth system of communication.

User Education/Readers Advisory Service

This could be described as training a group of users in the effective use of the library and its resources. It is used to stimulate the users to make greater use of the library and introduces library staff to clientele who might be reluctant to seek their assistance. This is the principal means through which library staff can learn about readers’ needs, opinions and habits. Good communication with readers enables staff to inform and influence readers.

The Media

These involve printed and audio-visual forms of communication and any necessary equipment to render them usable. The Press, radio and television are important means of publicising information service, since they offer potential of reaching many people from all walks of life. The media are cultivated so that messages are distributed with regularity. Publicity mechanism such as news releases, special events and brochures can also be employed.

The Social Media Groups (SMG)

The Sierra Leone Library Board makes use of the Social media groups such as ‘Facebook’ and ‘Watsapp’ as an effective way for publicity in order to put their messages across to users of their services.

Challenges of Marketing Library and Information Services at the SLLB

A lot of challenges have militated against the effective planning and implementation of library marketing programs at SLLB. The following are some of the challenges:

• Inadequate Staff: Although staff numbers have been maintained, the ratio of professional staff is very low. The library is manned mostly by paraprofessionals who mostly lack the skills to plan and implement marketing programmes.

• Finance: The library depends heavily on government subsidy. The government has no specific or substantial funds for the running of the library thus the library administration has to foot most of the bills that have to do with marketing. The irregular flow of funds has served as a barrier to the progress of marketing library and information services at the SLLB.

• Lack of standard printed materials and publications: The SLLB lacks most standard printed materials and publications due to poor planning of marketing programmes. This negligence has made the library handicapped of public relations tools in the form of printed materials and publications such as newsletters, questionnaires, diaries and calendars.

• Displays are improper and exhibitions seem almost absent: The library depends mostly on donations and most of the books are acquired without jackets. Therefore displaying book jackets in inconsistent. In fact exhibition programmes are yet to survive as they are only recently introduced. The library lacks relevant display and exhibition materials to mount these activities.

• Inability to organize frequent Radio Programs: The SLLB lacks media communication facilities. The library cannot frequently organise radio programmes on its own because of lack of funds. The absence of radio programmes stands out as an acute problem to the progress of marketing programs in the library.

Conclusively, marketing is the instrument that libraries use to transform their aims and objectives into operational plans of action. In most developing countries’ public libraries such as the SLLB, marketing strategies cannot operate properly due to the existence of bottlenecks in planning programmes. Good marketing programmes actualise the plans and measures necessary for the achievement of goals and objectives.