Knowing Important Areas in the Library


The John Harris library, University of Benin has the following main Departments/Divisions:

A. Administration,
B. Readers’ Serviees,
C. Technical Services
D. Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
E. Research and Bibliographic Services
F. Audio-visual/Media Resources and
G. Reprography Department

It is necessary to emphasize here, that smaller sections are subsumed within these Departments/Divisions such as Acquisition, Cataloguing and Classification, Circulation and Reference.

For the above reason, we shall not lay much emphasis on the functions of all the Divisions, but concentrate discussion on those divisions that have direct impact on the student use of the Library. This position is hinged on the fact that the focus is on the practical use and access to the material content of the library. So, such sections like Circulation, Reference, Serials, Research and Bibliographic Services, known in John Harris library as Special Collections, Textbook Collection and Reprography will be discussed.


The Circulation Section is usually visibly located at the center of the Library or near the main entrance. At the Circulation Desk users can receive information about the Library’s procedures for borrowing and returning materials: It is also from here that a user can ask to know the status of a book he/she cannot find on the open shelf especially when the catalogue indicates that the Library has such a book.

However, if the circulation records show that the material is charged out, one can then place an order for it, and the circulation staff would recall as well as notify intending borrower of such a text when it arrives the Library.


(a) The card catalogue is the major guide to the Library’s books and journals collection. The card catalogue measuring 3X5 in dimension is filed alphabetically from A-Z in drawers.

(b) The card catalogue cabinet is usually located in most libraries after the checkpoint and before the circulation desk. In this case, it is the first major facility a user encounters on coming into the library. However, following rapid advancement in technology manual card catalogue is gradually being replaced by Online Public Access catalogue (OPAC) in most libraries that have had their collection automated. Some libraries because of irregular power supply in the country still operate both manual card catalogue and OPAC simultaneously.


A library‘s book collection is generally made up of three categories. Firstly, is the General Collection, those books housed on long rows of shelves, usually called Stacks, which make up the bulk of the book collection and circulate for several weeks period. Second are those books and journals on Closed Access which are meant to be consulted within the library for a Specified time period and are not expected to be given out on loan. The third category of books whlch are either marked "Reserved" or "Reference" are equally not supposed to be given out.


Reservation of books is still part of the activities undertaken in the circulation section of most libraries. Books and Journals are placed on reserve either because such materials are in very high demand and available copies are limited, copies are expensive or are very rare to find, or for some other reasons.

Such materials are either placed behind the Circulation Desk and made available to users on request or the books are marked "reserved", in which case are not for loan.

However, Reserved Materials can be given out on loan for overnight reading or up to sevual days, while others can be on closed Reserve Access, in which case the use must be within the Library. Lecturers are privileged to recommend that certain texts be put off reserve and the circulation librarian will always oblige them.

This is to ensure access to such materials always by the students offering that course.


Books and Journals are said to be on closed access when physical reach to them is restricted. Open access, on the other hand, means that, physical access to some library materials is free and unrestricted; such materials are put on open shelf and can therefore be given out on loan. Reasons for placing library materials on reserve as explained above equally accounts for placing materials on closed access.

The period for borrowing books on open access differs from library to library. However, John Harris library ln Benin gives out books on loan for a period of two weeks and such borrowed books at the date due for their return can be renewed for an additional period, if no other user has requested for them.

Books and Journals are either on open or closed access in most libraries. If in a particular library, its materials are not on open access the catalogue will so indicate, in which case one would have to fill a form to get access to such material.


Reference materials can be described as books that one may not have to read or are not necessarily desired to be read from page to page e.g. Dictionaries, Encyclopedia, Year Books, Almanacs, Handbooks, Manuals, Atlases, Bibliography etc. In such materials, definite infomation is sought to solve a problem or answer a particular question.

Reference books are usually in most Libraries not given out on loan, as they are always marked ‘Ref' you use them in the Library only. A Reference Desk is usually located at the front of the reference section where a librarian on duty is expected to act as a receptionist to clients seeking direction on how to use the library and provide answer to quick reference queries. The reference section is where essential materials for research, writing of term paper and students assignments are got.


The person who provides reference services is called Reference Librarian. He should have a wide range of intellectual interest and desire to assist the user, flair for organizing documents, ability to search literature and adequate knowledge of the resources of the library. The job of the reference librarian is tasking as in most times, he would have to meet all shades of users, some awkward in their demand, while some will be appreciative, others will never be satisfied. So the reference service work requires a large heart of urbanity and patience. The role of the reference librarian is extremely important in modern library as its reputation depends upon the quality of reference service provided.

 The function of the reference librarian is to interpret library resources to the users. In the performance of his/her job, the reference librarian is expected to use the total resources of the library and also the sources available outside the library. The refereme librarian is always on hand to assist in providing guidance on which reference material is best suited to help readers in their quest for information. The essence of reference service is on interface between render and book through personal service, the emphasis is on personal service to each user to help him find documents, which would meet his requirements.


A. INTER-LIBRARY LOAN is yet another crucial service rendered under the supervision of the readers’ services department of the library. It is based on the principle of library cooperation, which takes cognizance of the fact that “No one Library can have it all” however aggressive it may be in its acquisition drive. So, if you desire a particular book or journal and your library does not have it,

“do not despair; explore your library's Iterlibrary Loan Procedures" - Seyler (1993).

B. INTERLIBRARY LOAN is a practice of interdependence on the realization that no one Library can buy all the books in a particular discipline or all the disciplines. Following this conviction, Libraries can form a consortia whereby students from university ‘A’ can request for books through university Library ‘B’ if the books are available in that library; arrangement is either made to make a photocopy of the requested material or send the original copies by post or courier and via the fastest means to the requesting Library.

 Also, if it is certain that a particular University Library has a particular book, a letter introducing the requesting student to the other Librarian can also serve to make it possible for the student to use the Library or to get access to the desired material. This is the essence of interlibrary cooperation.

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