Although the term "community library" was already in use in the first half of the twentieth century in literature of public library practice in the United Kingdom and many other countries, the concept "community librarianship" was first labelled in the 1980's and pushed forward the idea that all the people of the community is to be served. "The exploration of the people to be served and responsive library provision has been a long term interest of public librarians, the pioneers could be said to be American".The concept of "putting people first" is central to the service orientation of the library profession. But "the inevitable question has always been AND STILL IS, 'which people?'" (Redfern 1989:1 2). As a result of the failure of the traditional public library to satisfy the needs of all the people in the community, various alternative information and library services, such as resource centres have developed in the last two decades (Fairer Wessels & Machet 1993).
The public library of the twenty first century will have to also serve those people who were up to now the "unserved" if it wants to have any right of existence. But who are the unserved? Terms such as 'developing groups', the 'underdeveloped', 'underprivileged', 'disadvantaged' and 'underprepared' can be used to identify this group, but some of these terms, if not all, have become offensive. In the next century our approach will have to be: "that it is not people who are disadvantaged but communities which experience disadvantage because of our failure as service providers to offer them the same standard of service as other users" (Coleman 1992:308).
Development is closely linked to all these terms and is seen as a process of improving the quality of life in material as well as non material terms. Underdevelopment is seen as a failure to make use of human potential to achieve a good quality of life. Therefore the process of development is seen to be crucially dependent on the development of people (Shillinglaw 1986:38). Zaaiman (1988:6), with reference to Todaro (1981), identifies three aspects of development, viz: raising people's living levels; creating conditions conducive to the growth of people's self esteem; and increasing people's freedom to choose by enlarging the range of their choice variables. The central strategy of development must be the creation of formal and non formal learning opportunities to promote the development of people (Shillinglaw 1986:39). Formal, non formal and informal education are the traditional concerns of the public library (Shillinglaw 1986:38), therefore the importance of effective library service rendering to contribute to the development and upliftment of communities need not be argued. Moreover, development could be seen as the mission of the public library, and education the primary goal. Shillinglaw (1986:41) identifies three forms of education in which the public library should be involved:
However, attention should be paid to Zaaiman's (1988:224 226) warning to move away from the paternalistic approach or top down "gracious librarian uplifting the grateful poor" model (Walker 1994:124) and rather strive to the cooperative model for full participation, consultation and involvement of the communities. Knowledge of the multilingual and multicultural society to be served and new attitudes and social skills are necessary to deal with cultural and language barriers in communicating with various individual users.
Widespread illiteracy, absence of a reading culture, general ignorance as to what material and services are available in libraries, and dominance of an oral tradition among the black population affect the use of traditional public libraries (Fairer Wessels & Machet 1993:101). Urbanisation of large numbers of poor and uneducated people is a universal phenomenon which the public library has to deal with. More than fifty percent of black South Africans were already urban dwellers in 1983 (Bekker & Lategan 1988:64). Fairer Wessels (1990) found that the daily coping needs of urban black women are particularly urgent since many are solely responsible for the economic, physical and psychological needs and support of their families. Because of urbanization, resulting in detribalization, the lack of social support groups, an oral tradition, illiteracy and a low socio economic level, the urban black woman probably experience more difficulty in obtaining coping information to satisfy basic needs than her white counterpart.
Some of the significant socio economic features of rural communities in most Third World countries are poverty and underdevelopment, landlessness, food insecurity and a high population growth (Bembridge 1987:667). Eg approximately 40% of rural households in SA, live below the minimum subsistence level. Only 10% of household income derive from domestic food production. The balance comes from wages, pensions and remittances.
People in rural areas often have low levels of education. They are often illiterate. Women who comprises about 60% 80% of the rural population or rural farmers are often constrained in participating in agricultural development due to a lack of education, knowledge and skills and traditional proscriptions against women exercising leadership, or playing major decision making roles (Bembridge 1987:681).
Illiterates overwhelmingly make use of personal sources of information such as family and friends to cope with the needs of daily living and personal social networks are important sources of information for daily living. Even literates first rely on oral communication and then resort to impersonal sources of information. Illiterate and semi literate people need an information linker who is part of the community and whom everyone knows, someone that can give information verbally, and packaged information that is easy to understand on various topics (Fairer Wessels 1990:366).
People living in working communities tend to have very unstructured information environments. Formal provision of information tends to have a low priority, because the direct relevance of information to their goals cannot be shown. In circumstances of poverty and hardship, freedom of access to information can be perceived as irrelevant. Furthermore, people will not use an information service when they perceive that it is less inconvenient to go without the information than it is to get hold of it, and access is meaningless without use. Therefore, the context for the use of information in communities is unfavourable; people tend to lack time, resources and skills to identify, locate and exploit information which is not immediately available to them (Harris 1992:50) and which they can apply for personal gain.
It is clear that the context for information in developing communities is diverse and flexible. Most activities and communication take place at the most informal level. However, we also find a degree of formal organisation, eg advice agencies. Yet, networking which is fundamental to information flow is often lacking. The central problems in development and empowerment of communities are access to information and the ability to use information.
"Over recent decades, commentators have begun raising awareness of the institutional nature of public library and information services, and the negative effects implied. The modern traditions of community information and outreach grew out of this awareness." Three areas where institutionalization has set in can be identified: buildings, organizational structures (bureaucracy) and attitudes. "Libraries as institutions tend to become self serving and inhibitive of social change: they tend to erect barriers to protect their own interests and to represent stability, flexibility and responsiveness" (Harris 1992:52).The library tends to be elitist because of its approach to service rendering and its highly bureaucratic nature (Brink 1987:137). Without change in the way the organisation works there can be little scope for fundamental change in the role of the community library and in the perceptions of the library by the people. The principles of team management are highly appropriate. No change in serve rendering is possible if structure of management does not change (Dolan 1989:8).
Harris (1992:53) pleads for a model which assumes human beings to be capable of initiating actions rather than merely serving as reactive targets of persuasion."We need structures which support the presentation of communities' own knowledge, for example through public meetings, pamphlets and leaflets, resource centres with desktop publishing , public libraries providing access to bulletin boards where agencies can upload records of their experiences and views, the use of databases and multi media to provide statements by marginalized groups", etc.
Many people have difficulty recognizing that they have information needs. Information awareness actually amounts to overcoming this difficulty. Information awareness is also the ability to recognize that problems may be solved and that development (personal, community, economic & social) may be achieved by accessing and using information (Harris 1992:56). Eg, Fairer Wessels (1990) found that the urban black woman must be made aware of her needs and cannot articulate them and thus solve her problems. Lack of this ability may be highly restrictive.
The ability to exploit information can take many forms: being able to match discrete pieces of data; gaining access to information sources and channels, the use of word processing, photocopiers, desktop publishing, bulletin boards, etc; assessing who else might benefit from the information or best be able to use it (Harris 1992:56).
The ability to exploit information or information handling skills are closely related to the general problem solving and development potential of a group or community. This brings the concept of information literacy to the fore, which is defined by (Rader & Coons 1992:113) as:
... the ability to effectively access and evaluate information for problem solving and decision making ... know how knowledge and information are organized, how to find various types of information, how to organize information, and how to use information in problem solving. To be information literate means to: be educated for survival and success in an information/technology environment; lead productive, healthy and satisfying lives in a democratic society; deal effectively with rapidly changing environments; solve ... challenging problems ... in order to ensure a better future for the next generation; be an effective information consumer who can find appropriate information for personal and professional problem solving; have writing and computer proficiency; and to possess an integrated set of research strategy and education skills, and knowledge of discipline related tools and resources. In short information literate people know how to be life long learners in an information society.
Harris (1992:58) warns against preoccupation with physical and intellectual access at the expense of information awareness and use. Information workers must use their skills and experience to develop information capability among communities to ensure use of information (ie user instruction). That brings us to the identification of specific services which should be rendered.
However, these functions should be based on community contact (community liaison & needs assessment) and access to materials and information (collection development & resource sharing) as Monroe's (1983) hierarchy of user services suggests.
On a micro level the practice of democracy is secured by the inclusion of each participant in the decision making process: the innovators (or animators), community leaders, the public, specialists, information workers and sponsors. This tradition of participatory democracy practised by existing resource centres is a heritage and culture which can enrich library and information services ... on a macro level.Constant liaison with all organisations and groups is necessary to keep abreast of all activities in a community, but also to discover their needs for library services. Ways of identifying the gaps in service provision have traditionally included user (& non user) surveys. Based on these surveys, census data, and other community analyses, community profiles can be established. But user studies will move on to user participation so that the gap between the institution and the public can be bridged (Redfern 1989:3). Morris (1992:96) mentions the establishment of customer panels, which target specific groups of residents and ask a series of questions aimed at determining needs and the use and take up of specific services. Some libraries have also experimented with consumer forums and open days which have a dual purpose, namely the promotion and publicising of an aspect of the service, as well as the encouragement of feedback from the public.
Our view of user needs should not be restricted to expressed needs (ie demand), but to unexpressed and even unconscious needs. Information workers must anticipate needs. Task performance needs as well as needs related to personal development, ie needs for self actualisation and enrichment, should be catered for. Harris (1992:46) warns that if we only focus on the provision of information for practical needs, such as problem solving and decision making, we may overlook the importance of information as a resource for development. He states as follows:
The availability of a wide range of diverse sources of information is fundamental for healthy communities, so that information surrounds people and can be happened upon' and can be used to stimulate ideas and initiatives. If we deny this role for information as a kind of compost in which individuals and communities can flourish, rather than as a kind of pesticide which can be sprayed onto social blemishes we are guilty of restricting human potential for social, economic, community and personal development. Thus access to information means access to resources irrespective of expressed need.
Fairer Wessels (1990:365) found that personal information sources and local social support networks in the neighbourhood are the urban black woman's main sources of information, together with various community oriented organisations such as churches, women's groups, burial societies, and so on. The media are not widely used at all. The inadequacy of personal/primary sources is obvious in our information society, but as a result of the urban black woman's lack of critical awareness and her lack of literacy, formal information sources are largely inaccessible and inadequate to her as they are not attuned to her needs.
Newspapers and magazines in different languages are an important aid to encouraging a wider community use. Similarly, audiovisual material, eg talking books, videos and music reflecting the different languages and cultures is important in ensuring that the library appeals to everyone in the community (Morris 1992:95 96).
Community librarianship goes beyond the observable brave attempts to relate the content and presentation of book stock to the community ... What seems significant is the lack of will or ability to relate the contents of libraries to individuals in a way that makes sense of the richness of ideas and the usefulness of information ... a certain sort of commitment to information transfer.User guidance can be defined as the action whereby the user is guided and directed towards the satisfaction of some reading or information need. It is aimed at establishing effective communication between the record and the user, and it therefore amounts to active service provision. Guidance can take place directly, ie face to face, or indirectly by means of:
The need for information services at local level to disseminate oral and written information at various levels of comprehension to all peoples in the community, and facilities and resources for students and adult learners was so great that many resource centres developed outside the public library to satisfy community needs. (Eg 120 resource centres still exist in South Africa).
The development of community information services in the public library is closely related to attempts to develop and uplift poor communities and is especially topical today because of three main reasons: the increasing complexity of modern society, unequal access to information and the development of the information technology (Fairer Wessels:359 360).
Community information has two aspects, namely the nature of the clientele served (the community) and the nature of the information provided. The nature of information provision today, is more diverse than it has ever been. According to Coleman (1992:301) most librarians have moved away from a narrow definition of "community information" to "information for the community". The purpose of community information
... was to empower people to take control themselves in order to interpret information directly and to use it to take action to solve their problems, and to develop their creativity for their own personal satisfaction and enjoyment and for that of their community. Today, we are more concerned with providing services based on the collection, organization and dissemination of resources than with undertaking a more broadly based community development role. Paradoxically, this has led to a wider range of approaches to 'informing communities' (instead of collecting information on the community) as the nature of the response is tailored to the specific circumstance.During the last decade, many public library services have decentralised and yet others have developed a community role for the first time, many of them to such and extent that they have changed their name from 'public library' to 'community library'. "But there still remains a very real role to promote the value of information generally, to target particular aspects of information to people and groups who will benefit from using it, and to refer people on for specialist help to claim what is due to them" (Coleman 1992:301).
Coleman (1992:303 307) identifies the following major types of community information: Health information; Job information; Educational information, Information on What's on, Events and activities; Local history; Child care information; Authority information; and Business information.
Educational guidance for continuing education is going to be one of the most important functions of librarians in the next decade. Adults considering re entering the education system are often deterred in finding and understanding all the information they need. They experience various difficulties: of finding reliable advice on their best course of action; of marrying educational goals with personal and vocational needs, responsibilities and aspirations; and with the daunting bureaucratic nature of educational institutions generally and their admissions procedures in particular. Educational guidance places the adult enquirer at the centre of the negotiation, and assist him/her to select from the full range of institutions' offerings. Therefore, educational guidance is client centred, not institution centred, and independent of institutional recruitment needs (Butler 1988:9 10).
Educational guidance is an umbrella term which suggests that the adult learner needs provision of educational information and help in interpreting the information; advice in making choices from a full array of appropriate options, counselling, assessment, and implementation. However, educational guidance is usually confined to the provision of educational information and advice (Fisher 1988:44).
Advice in the choice of reading matter is of great importance to help people to develop a love for books and reading. As Neil Napper (1990) states: "On the simple hierarchy of reading skills, learning to read is followed by reading to learn, then by enjoying reading, and finally by reading for learning and enjoyment."
Goodall (1992:213 214) also emphasises the importance of the reading habit in personal development when she says that "... although the current concern with literacy is valid, it has tended to focus upon methods of teaching (particularly for children), rather than tackling the wider and more pervasive problem, that is, the motivation for reading".
The reading of fiction is an important part of adult literacy services, particularly as such services should be responsive to customer needs regarding materials. There is a continuing need for assistance to those who have problems with adult literacy and basic numeracy skills (Goodall 1992:212 213). Relevant fiction at an appropriate level and subject interest are also necessary to serve the needs of those with little confidence and poor reading skills. Eg novels are a means of comprehending our world and our vision, and serve a significant function within our culture (Goodall 1992:227).
Literature and reading is one of the most obvious areas in which public libraries can provide guidance, but for many years no really purposive attempts have been made to do so. Many people are anxious for guidance and, in the absence of recommendations from librarians, turn to other sources. Well thought out booklists, reading programmes and exhibitions by librarians can help people choose the books which will satisfy their personal needs and interests. It is important to recognize that in some cases imaginative literature can be the best way through which to help people to acquire information and understanding, eg, about physical or mental illness, or life in another country (Coleman 1992:307) Reading advice should therefore be extended to reading therapy (ie bibliotherapy).
It is clear that the public library of the 21century is expected to be far more than an information centre and should provide for a diversity of community needs. However, the biggest contribution which librarians could make to development is to get people into libraries.
The library itself needs to be seen as an attractive and welcoming place for people to visit. Many library authorities are refurnishing libraries to make them more accessible. An interesting development is the use of moveable shelves which can make the library a flexible space which may then be used for meetings and performances. Libraries can be used for a variety of activities aimed at different cultural groups, including children's theatre and workshops, exhibitions of ethnic art and artifacts and information and advice sessions for small businesses. These help to attract people into the library and demonstrate that the library service has changed and now offers something for them.
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