Role of libraries in developing an informed and educated nation

Published date19 September 2016
Date19 September 2016
AuthorIna Fourie,Anika Meyer
Subject MatterLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology,Information behaviour & retrieval,Information user studies,Metadata,Information & knowledge management,Information & communications technology,Internet
Role of libraries in developing an
informed and educated nation
Ina Fourie and Anika Meyer
Department of Information Science,
University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Purpose Libraries of all types have often been called on to take on challenges ranging from
information literacy and developing a reading culture to promoting social justice. In recent literature
they have been challenged to contribute to the development of informed and educated nations a big
issue in developing countries. Sometimes even to empower people. The purpose of this paper is to raise
awareness for this call as important for developing as well as developed nations and the numerous
issues, role players and lenses they need to bear in mind. As an opinion piece it can merely scratch the
surface of raising awareness.
Design/methodology/approach This contribution builds on the literature of library and
information science, education and politics to present an exploratory viewpoint and a nascent model to
support further work. It intentionally touches on a diversity of issues that may seem at odds with each
other, but that in the opinion reflect the enormous scope to address and diversity of individual,
institutional and global input and lenses that can make a difference.
Findings Many obvious approaches to achieve the object of an informed and educated nation with
empowered individuals can be noted such as focusing on information literacy, digital literacy and
information fluen cy. However more awa reness is required o f the need to take a holis tic view of
issues to focus on suc h as tolerance and ethi cs, and the informatio n behaviour and infor mation
practices of people in various contexts, and how changes in the awareness of needs to address and
the need to seek information and support from diverse sources, can contribute. A first step would be
to note the diversity that might contribute towards a holistic view of a global problem to which
libraries can cont ribute.
Originality/value There are limited publications on the topic in the library and information science
literature although developing an informed and educated nationfeatures in the mission and vision
plans of some countries, and empowerment is sometimes specifically noted in publications on user
education and information literacy. This paper offers an exploratory viewpoint to raise awareness to
consider various approaches and threads to the topic and to not think only in terms of education and
information literacy, but to recognise the full role libraries and librarians can play also in reaching
out to other role players such as users, governments and grant providers.
Keywords Libraries, Education, Empowerment, Social responsibility, Library functions,
Informed nations
Paper type Viewpoint
1. Introduction
The need to move forward, to address social exclusion and to ensure social justice and
access to information for all is globally acknowledged (Igiamoh and Ogunwemimo,
2013; Jaeger et al., 2016; Stilwell, 2016). It concerns health, jobs, human rights and
especially education, and many other things. Calls for empowering and educating
nations, and the importance of an educated nation has often been raised (Hart and
Nassimbeni, 2013; Maswabi et al., 2011; Mgina and Lwehabura, 2011). In fact
centuries ago Napoleon Bonaparte already said: Give me the educated mothers and I
would give you an educated nation(Mali, 1989). Jane Fonda proclaimed: We can no
longer waste time and money. Every day, more than 2,000 girls in America, age 15-19,
give birth in the wealthiest, most educated nation in the world! Neither you or I should
Library Hi Tech
Vol. 34 No. 3, 2016
pp. 422-432
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/LHT-01-2016-0009
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