National Library

National Library: The governments of most major countries support national libraries. The national library has a national responsibility. It stands as the apex institution for library services in a country and is funded by National government. Three noteworthy examples are the U.S. Library of Congress (located in Washington, D.C.), Canada Library and Archives and the British Library. The countries which wish to preserve their particular culture, have established a national library, with the provision of legal deposit. In addition to having a law requiring the publishers to deposit books, those countries with legal deposits usually have many other incentives for a proper and speedy deposit, such as a tie-in with laws affecting copyright of the same documents, and/or a cataloguing- in- publication service.
a) Definition: A national library is a library specifically established by the government of a nation to serve as the preeminent repository of information for that country. According to UNESCO’s definition “National library of a country is the one responsible for collecting and conserving that country’s book production for the benefit of future generation.”

According to the ALA glossary of library and information science, a national library is “a library designated as such by the appropriate national body and funded by the national government. Its functions may include the comprehensive collection of the publication output of the nation (frequently as a copyright depository library), the compilation and maintenance  of a national bibliography, the comprehensive collection and organization of publications on an international scale for the scholarly community, the production of the bibliographic tools, the coordination of a library network, the provision of library services to the national government or some of its agencies, and other responsibilities delineated by the national government”. It has a comprehensive collection of the published output of a nation to serve the nation as a whole. Unlike public libraries, National Library rarely allows citizens to borrow books. Often, it includes numerous rare, valuable, or significant works.

b) Objectives: According to International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), IFLA National Libraries Section, “national libraries often serve as a national forum for international programmes and projects. They may have a close relationship with national governments, may be concerned with the development of national information policies, and may act as a conduct for the views of other sectors of the profession. Occasionally, they also serve the information needs of the legislature directly”. Some of the objectives of national libraries are

i) To acquire and conserve the whole of the national production via legal deposit (i.e., copyright) of the national imprint (both print and electronic);

ii) The provision of central services (e.g., reference, bibliography, preservation, lending) to users both directly and through other library and information centres [(i.e., Inter Library Loan (ILL)];

iii) The preservation and promotion of the national cultural heritage; acquisition of at least a representative collection of foreign publications;

iv) To undertake the production of current national bibliographies and also of retrospective national bibliographies;

v) To assemble material for a central register of manuscript collections and to keep it up to date;

vi) To set up a national plan for the acquisition of foreign materials in countries where no such plan exists;

vii) The promotion of national cultural policy; and leadership in national literacy campaigns.

c) Collections: National library is usually notable for its size, compared to that of other libraries. It is compressive in the extreme but it also concentrates on current, working collection. Its thrust is immediate use. National libraries are however still trying to collect all significant materials produced in the respective country as well as important documents published outside the country.

d) Services: Library services available throughout the world vary so much in detail from country to country that it is impossible to present any thing but the most general picture of their activities. International organization for Standardization has recognized the following functions of a national library:

i) Responsible for acquiring and conserving copies of all significant publications published in the country, built up by legal deposit or under other arrangement;

ii) Hold and keep up to date a large and representative collection of foreign literature including books about the country;

iii) Produce a national bibliography;

iv) Publish a retrospective national bibliography;

v) Act as a national bibliographical information centre;

vi) Compile a union catalogue.

To the above basic functions, the following additional functions are identified.

vii) Provide interlibrary lending and for this purpose develop central loan / photocopy collection of both national and foreign literature;

viii) Developing and maintaining bibliographic data bases relevant to the country;

ix) Act as a national repository for the receipt, storage, preservation and supply by loan or photocopy of items withdrawn from other libraries;

x) To conserve the national intellectual and cultural heritage for the benefit of the future generations;

xi) Act as exchange centre, national and international.

            The national library is the central agent receiving information and inquiries and initiating library services for the common good. The national library should be the prime mover in library matters and should be expected to be the leading library in all fields. It should act as the hub of nation’s research and reference and referral centre.