Libraries and the Information Society
Information needs and information usage are basic elements in the Information Society, regardless of the technological level of the social community. People everywhere realize their need for information; an aspiring entrepreneur would like to register his new invention with the patent office and needs to consult a law book; a fresh university graduate joining the business world wants to learn to write an effective CV; a newly wed couple deciding to start a family starts to research the procedures of adopting a baby. Libraries are the foundations existing to answer these kind of questions. They are specialized to serve typical social needs on the individual level.
Traditionally, libraries are known as promotors of research and reading, or more broadly, intellectual activity. An indirect, but vital factor to intellectual activity is culture and the involvement and creativity of its participants. However, it is impossible to imagine how people's creative powers could be fully activated without the impact of culture, which extends into the depths of the mind.
Benefits of the Existing System
In most societies, libraries are an existing structure. Libraries throughout the world provide citizens public access to the networked information. In the rural areas of developing countries the importance of libraries is vital. Libraries advance social development by facilitating access to information, showcasing the use and training of information technologies, and providing remote communication for the remote people.
Developing this resource offers large potentials in building up the Information Society on a local level. The basic education of the library staff, the existing collections and the library structure form a good foundation to improve citizen's access to information and culture. Here, the new ICT has created enormous possibilities to improve library services for the benefit of their communities. Building on the existing foundation, a modest investment in libraries and information services would:
- provide an extensive web of internet access points, each supported with advice and training
- offer relevant information in appropriate formats and languages
- develop literacies and capacity
- support health and education
- advance the position of women
- provide opportunity and choice for children and the benefits of lifelong learning
- promote innovation and economic development
- ensure the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage and diversity
- foster respect and understanding between peoples.
See: Promoting the global information commons. A statement by IFLA to WSIS Tunis PrepCom2 http://www.ifla.org/III/wsis/wsis-24Feb05.html
Best practizes, great potentials
Many of these potentials have already been put into effect in active and properly resourced libraries. This event will present some best practices from libraries around the world. Through these examples we want to make visible the versatile potential of the libraries in fulfilling the goals of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) endorsed by United Nations (UN ), as well as their contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals of the UN.