Public Service

Public Service: The library public service manages the activities that directly assist the end-user. The public service can be grouped into two major headings essential public service and enhanced public service.

Generally, reading room, circulation, list of accession, printed catalogue, etc are treated as essential (general) public services and Current Awareness Service (CAS), Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) are treated as enhanced (selective) public services. The public service of the library generally depends upon one major factor i.e. whether it provides open access to its collection or it is closed access.

The library public service sometimes is also known as information service. L. M. Harrod defines information service as “service provided by or for any information centre which draws attention to information possessed in its departments in anticipation of demand, this is done by presenting and circulating news sheet, literature surveys, reading lists, abstract, particulars of articles in current periodicals etc which, it is anticipated, will be of interest to potential users of the service”. The information service is provided directly to the potential user of the service.

1. General / Universal / Essential Public Service: The general public services include the following facilities and services

a) Building Collection of Reference Material: It will include acquisition of dictionaries, encyclopedias, and bibliographies, indexing and abstracting periodicals and so on. The library can also bring out different types of bibliographies, indexing and abstracting of different types on its own to draw the attention of the user.

b) Card Catalogue: The card catalogues are filled in a cabinet containing many drawers identified books and other materials. In a large library, the card catalogue often fills a large room.

c) Accession List / List of Recent Acquisition: Here, a list of books newly added to the library is regularly compiled and distributed. These lists provide new books and journals added to the library and are generally indicative, bearing very few details like author, title, publisher, pages, call number and accession number. Sometimes, the library can also display the book jacket of new additions prominently in the library to bring it to the notice of potential users.

d) Book Display: Displaying of library material pertinent to a special interest or illustrating a historic occasion like man’s flight to space, and so on can be helpful. This enables the users to keep themselves currently aware of the recent developments.

e) Newspaper Clipping Service: In this type of service the important topics / news published in newspaper are cut and filed subject wise for being provided to the user.

f) Public Relation: Public relation is a day to day building of the atmosphere of good will with the public in which a library can operate most widely and most effectively to give the best possible service to its community. It is the relationship of the library with its user or borrowers, with non borrowers of the community, with the trustees or library committee, with dealers, collectors, salesmen of equipment, with scholars, with the staff and administrator for which librarians work.

2. Enhance / Selective Public Service: The enhance public services can be grouped into the following types.

2.1 Current Awareness Service (CAS): The awareness service provides knowledge to the user regarding recent developments in the field of general interest. This type of service is directed towards all users of the services. It does not deal with the exact or specific requirement or interest of the user and is thus distinguished from SDI service.

The CAS helps the user by keeping him up-to-date & well informed with the latest information on a particular field and also in the related field. It indicates what one should read and thereby it saves the time of the reader. It also serves as a rapid survey of retrospective literature. CAS helps the user in the following ways:

i) Keeps Well Informed: Due to great advances made in the field of knowledge, it is becoming more and more difficult for the users to keep themselves up-to-date and well informed in their field of specialization. CAS meets this end for the researcher and others. Otherwise, too much of information would make it difficult for them to use information effectively.

ii) Helps the User in Scanning the Literature: There may be users who do not possess the ability or willingness to do the scanning regularly on their own. CAS provides aid in such situation by widely and regularly scanning the literature and sending to the user the relevant topic of interest.

iii) Saves Time: The Library and Information Centres by scanning the sources of information and notifying the members of the community, saves their valuable time. Again, in case each user scans literature individually then this will lead to unnecessary duplication of effort. So, the CAS can help the user avoid this duplication.

iv) Promotes and Supports Library Service: All services of the library are not free nowadays. So, in this context, it is essential to promote and market library services. CAS is one of the ways to bring the resources of the library / information centre to the notice of the users. This will in turn lead to greater demand for the library service, giving opportunity to the library to prove its value and justification for the money spent on it.

            Librarians have been providing the CAS service on manual basis for a long time. But nowadays computers are used to mechanize the procedure. The current awareness service through computer may be provided through E-List (a Web-enabled contemporary reference service offered to the registered members), online groups, blogs, RSS, E-Mail, SMS, etc. The steps involved in CAS may be of the following types

i) Creation of User Profile: The profiles of the user, who are to be given CAS/SDI service, are prepared. A profile consists of the key words that collectively characterize the subject interest of an individual. The profile can be of a single user or a group working on the same project or some limited subject field. The profile obtained thus must be kept up-to-date. Therefore, if the topic of inertest changes then the corresponding profile must also be modified accordingly.

ii) Acquisition of Resources: The different sources of information, periodicals, research papers, which are relevant to the parent body, must be selected and collected from different sources. In the next step, through rapid reading the resources are scanned by the LIS professionals to find out the key concepts.

iii) Creation of Document Profile:  The relevant and significant information is recorded in the form of content list for different contexts. The recorded information may be in the form of an abstract or an extract. Depending upon the significance of the document, the bibliographical details and indexing terms and the information itself are stored on the file / magnetic tape / computer document.

iv) Matching Profile: In a regular interval, the user profile should be correlated or matched with the document profile. The computer compares the two inputs; the output is printed out in the form of two cards. One card is called information card that contain either the list of document or the information itself along with bibliographical details of document which also has a tear off strip request note. The other card is called response card.

v) Notification / Information Communication: If there exists any matching between the two profiles then the matching information is sent to the user or group of users, who may require it, through different means of communication in anticipation, like telephone calls, postal mail / email / SMS with a request to call at the reference desk to get the pertinent information. In case of postal communication, the two cards are sent to the user. The information can also be sent through a messenger.

vi) Feedback Mechanism: The user keeps the information card for his use. In case he wants to consult the document, he tears off the request note strip and sends it to the library along with the response card, in which he indicates the degree of interest in the particular document.

vii) Library Action: The library takes action on the request note strip to send the document(s) to the concerned user or to keep it in the library for him. The response card helps the library to know about the usefulness of the information provided as well as the shift in the information need. The library accordingly modifies the user profile page for improving performance.

2.2 Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) Service: SDI is a refinement of CAS service which is directed to individual / personal requirement (personalized). It provides a deeper analysis of literature. If two people exactly match in terms of their interest, then SDI also can be provided to the two people. H.P. Luhn is a pioneer in this field. The steps in providing SDI services are same as that of CAS, the difference is only in the depth of the interest.

The aim of SDI is to see that the user should neither be provided too much of information nor made to miss information essential for his requirements. It should also meet the user need at individual level.

SDI service may take the following forms-

i) Contents Alerts: This service is provided by photocopying, scanning the content pages of learned journals and other important publications keeping in view the interest of the users.

ii) Routine of Periodicals (Automatic Loan): In this procedure, the current issues of periodicals are routed. There are two systems of routing the current issues of the periodicals. In the first method, the library sends the current issue to the first person on the last, who passes it on to the next name in the list. The last person in the list returns the periodical to the library. In the second method, the library sends the issue to the first person on the list, who returns it to the library, and then the library sends it to the next person on the list, who again returns it to the library. Next the library sends it to the third person, and the system goes on like this.

iii) Notification of Forth Coming Conferences, Seminars, etc.: The information about forthcoming meetings, conferences, symposia, seminar, workshop etc. on a specific field should be notified to the members belonging to that specific domain. Keeping this purpose in view some library provides this kind of service to the user.

2.3 Liaison Service: In Liaison service, the library professionals go to the users to identify the problems encountered by them in course of their activities, analyze their information need, and put them in touch with the information sources or services.

2.4 Let Us Sum Up: An efficient library service does not merely depend on its stock and staff but also on the awareness and attraction of the clients to the services offered by the library. It is a prime responsibility, therefore, of the librarian to effectively interpret its activities to the public.

Computerized Current awareness services began with bibliographic databases that contained references to periodicals, books, and other documents.  Services then were expanded to include online catalogues, CD-ROM sources, networking of libraries and library systems, full text retrieval, and the Internet.

Public relation is as much a part of the daily life of the library as of any business, perhaps more so, as the library is not self supporting and primarily depends even more than the usual business, on the good wishes of its patron. The precisely stated public relation and extension service of the library is the task of lending or delivering books and other forms of information to the users who are distant from a library or who may be relatively near it but somehow unable to travel to it. Staff news sheet, exhibits, guides to exhibit are all part of a library publicity programme. Libraries can also supplement and complement the mass media of communication i.e. Newspaper, Press, Radio, Television, Cinema for public relation.