Library originated from the Latin word “Liber,” which stands for book. Earlier, a library was “a place where books were written or kept”. This term was commonly used as a “collection of books” and a librarian as a keeper or safe guarder of books. This word has taken centuries to become central point of all social actions and has got recognition as a social institution.

There is no gainsaying the fact that a library is a repository of knowledge. A library is an institution of inestimable value containing books and electronic materials for the development of an individual, organization and the society.

According to Ejimkonye Nwogu and Obiagwu (1991), a library is defined as “an organized collection of books and other carriers of information organized and exploitable for current and future use”. Human knowledge is no longer stored in books only, hence the need to organize other “carriers of information” such as potographs, slides, tapes, cassettes, diskettes, CD- ROM and other electronic collectibles. An important aspect of the definition given above is the use of the term “organized”. This implies that there must be an “organizer” that has to organize these collections. This is done to enhance an individual’s access to the resources contained therein. This is where the library staff comes in. There must be a librarian to assist in using the collection and the collection must be properly selected to reflect the role it is expected to play.

Also, the library has been viewed as a intellectual powerhouse capable of integrating minds and experiences from all works of life with various community for the purpose of storing and spreading knowledge and information. The end purpose of library is about the fact that the information resources contained therein are for use.

There are different types of library namely, public, academic, school, private, national and special library which the museum library belong to. A special library is a collection of books and other printed, graphic or recorded materials dealing with a limited field of knowledge and provided by a learned society, research organization, individual, industrial or commercial undertakings, government department or even an educational institution.

The museum library can also be seen as a special branch of a public library that serves certain interest or occupational groups such as a technical library or a special subject library meeting the needs of all inquiries about the museum. The museum library deals with special user groups, has special subject collections and provides special services. The museum library is established to meet the information requirements of the museum. This library is generally devoted to research and development (R&D) activities and procures all types of document in the form of handbooks, technical reports, state-of-the-art reports, bibliographies, current awareness bulletins, periodicals, indexes, abstracts, directories, documentation lists and accession lists.

The museum library supports research into the object and its context; into the methodologies for conserving the objects; and finally it supports research relating to the display of the object, and into exhibitions. The heart of this research supports lies in it’s collecting of evidentiary documentation. Since the museum library supports research related to a specific collection of objects, museum libraries develop deep and uniquely focused collections of research materials. The museum library provides the context within which an institution’s specific collection of objects can be researched, documented and interpreted. Thus, if the public was allowed into the museum library they could compliment their experiences of viewing and studying an individual object with printed information about the object as well as other related objects which were not available in the museum gallery.

In the museum library, users can also find out more about the person who created the object, other works by the same artist, cragsman or designer, other works of that period or locality or simply background information about the period or locality, in otherwords: context. The museum library compensate for the inevitable limitations of the museum as a parent body.

Visitors to the museum know that they will be able to find the most indepth information on works of art in the museum’s collection in the museum library. They also know they will find information about how museums work, and about other museums’ collections and exhibitions. In this way, museum libraries fulfil a particular need in the community. Thus, because the museum library provides a niche for special collections of related material, the museum’s mission and it’s collections of objects are enhanced, amplified and enriched through the museum library.

There are specific types of publications which are dealt with in different ways in the museum libraries than in other libraries. Museum libraries specifically collect catalogues of other museums,’ permanent collections, exhibition catalogues from both museums and commercial galleries and the catalogues of auction houses. As far as exhibition catalogues are concerned, museum libraries set up elaborate networks to ensure that they can collect as many as they can since most exhibition catalogues cannot be found in bookshops.

Librarians in the museum libraries further deal with copyright issues everyday of their working lives, thereby making the museum library a focus point for resolving copyright issues facing the museum and the society at large.

The museum libraries acts as information hubs for people to find out what is happening in their community and exchange news about their activities.

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The museum libraries helps to offer free and low cost access to the internet via the lottery funded national “people’s network”, in the first year of operation, over 50,000 people nationwide used the people’s network for projects to supports their local community.

The museum library archives care for collections like maps, artifacts, records, archeological funds, arts that tell the unique story of a community and it’s heritage, thereby helping people to understand more about their local area and its people.

The museum library helps to sustain and revitalize histories and peoples’ culture that play a significant role in defining a community’s identity and makes it accessible to the people.

Museum libraries in the South East provide extended support for students through mechanisms such as homework, clubs, teenage reading groups and e-learning resources.

The museum library helps people to be exposed to information about their own culture and that of others, how they think and relate with people in the society, the information gotten from the library can transform them and they start living in peace with others.

Also, information about certain aspects of our culture is stored in the museum library and these can be researched into with a view to upholding or upgrading same.

New information about certain aspects of our culture can be derived from the museum library, and this will not only enhance our knowledge base but also open up new doors of socio-cultural transformation.

Information about societal norms and values are also stored up in the museum library for people to read, study, and meditate on in order to get better informed and equipped. People from different socio-cultural backgrounds come to museum library to learn about their culture and that of others which helps to break sociobarrier.

Knowledge about our cultures gained from the museum library will help people to function well within their socioenvironment and environment outside their culture; this will enhance peace, love, unity and understanding as well as foster national and international integration, cooperation and diplomacy.

A visit to the museum library will open new vistas of ideas and opportunities for socio transformation as the users are exposed to information about one’s customs and traditions coupled with those of others.

Onyemaechi is a staff of National Museum, Benin City