by Zakir Hossain *
While working for a research project, I asked thousands of Vietnamese teachers and students about their disinterest in using the library.
Some said library collections are not updated, whereas others complained about library services. But a common question I have been asked the most by Vietnamese teachers and students is "Why do we need to use the library when we have Google and the Internet?"
Can Google replace libraries? I agree that Google has a huge impact on our daily life. It enables ready access to a massive store of information and knowledge for us.
However, people cannot be expected to make sense of all the information and knowledge at their fingertips without the structure, guidance and expert advice offered by libraries and librarians.
Anyone can Google something, but it often takes a librarian to help you sort through those 300,000 web hits and find the relevant ones.
Google is a search engine; libraries and librarians are the heart and soul of that engine!
Unfortunately, it is said that a typical student types 2-3 words on Google and looks at the first couple of pages, then gets frustrated or stops. That is where libraries and librarians can assist them with that information on Google in its many formats.
From my experience, so many students don't know much about using keywords or other operators for searching. They can surely find a video or fact, but it is a real hard time when they need to do academic work.
Although most of us assume that our technology natives are savvy, in my experience, it is the opposite.
Needless to say, libraries are more than just books and research! They have always been important places for creation and innovation. People come to the library for meetings and discussions, and sometimes you can even make friends with like-minded people.
Today's libraries also offer social and educational services such as reading groups or IT lessons which help people develop skills. Most importantly, they are easily accessible and free for everyone.
Due to the rapid technological revolution, libraries around the world are under transition, which creates many challenges in librarianship.
Librarians are finding that some of the old ways are being challenged by new ideas and new technology. Vietnamese libraries and librarians are no exception. In this new world, it is incumbent upon the library to change, to adjust and to evolve to meet the needs of new patrons.
In August 2013, the daily Viet Nam News published a conference report entitled ‘Nation's libraries urged to go digital.' I absolutely agree with the speaker's suggestions, especially the comments of Associate Professor Dr. Quy.
This kind of conference and seminar should be organised periodically with the backing of the Viet Nam Library Association and Library & Information Science Schools in Viet Nam.
Only Vietnamese library professionals can make libraries and librarianship more important and respectful through their proactive services. These professionals should knock on the doors of the users rather waiting for the users to knock on theirs.
In the age of the Internet, it is easier than ever before to reach out learners not only through emails but also through social, digital and mobile media like Facebook, Twitter, Zing Me, Skype and, of course, library blogs.
Libraries are fundamental to a learning society. If Viet Nam desires to achieve a Learning Society by 2020, it is essential to have an educated and informed public, and libraries are the place for this.
Libraries are one of the few places left where librarians do offer a smile, an ear to listen, and help users cordially while providing privacy - and without asking for anything in return.
Libraries cannot be replaced by Google or the Internet for sure.—VNS
* The author is a teacher- Librarian and Google certified internet search expert. He can be reached at http://works.bepress.com/zakir_hossain/