An academic library is a library attached to an academic institution i. e. an institution engaged in teaching and or research and imparting formal education to students who aspire to complete a particular course under a prescribed syllabus. Schools, colleges, universities and technological/engineering/medical institutions are some of such institutions, which may vary from one another in respect of courses offered by them. Since academic libraries exist to cater to the needs and requirements of their parent academic institution, these vary in shape, size, collection and services; depending upon the nature of the parent institution. For example, libraries attached to a school, college (general, engineering or medical) or university would be different from rest in respect of collection, shape, size and services. However, all academic libraries exist to support to the teaching and research programmes of their parent institutions. Besides having good collection of reference books on variety of subjects, these emphasize on building up a strong collection concerning the courses offered by the institution.
University Library: Definition: A university library is a library attached to a university. It exists to cater to the needs and requirements of students and teachers and to support the teaching and research programmes of the university. Libraries have become so much important for a university that the university can hardly go without a library. As per the previous trend university education was based on dictation: teachers used to dictate and students used to jot down the notes. Now the things have changed altogether. At present the nature and mode of university level education is such that a student or scholar is put into a situation so as to find a solution to problems, do some creative thing or conduct a study on a project. This necessitates the existence of a sound collection of information, in what so ever form, that in turn is called a university library.
Role: The facts discussed in the introduction and the definitions have laid down marked emphasis on the role the libraries are expected to play in university education. Need and importance of libraries in a university library has been realized and accepted by many authorities. For example the Kothari Commission recognizes the library as the heart of the university. Similarly U.G.C. (UK) report maintained some seventy years ago, The character and efficiency of a university may be gauged by its treatment towards its central organ, the library. An adequate library is not only the basis of all teachings and study: it is essential condition of research without which addition can not be made to the sum of human knowledge. An eminent educationist Cyril Norwood in his speech at the Annual Conference of ASLIB (1935) said firmly, It is better proof of education to know how to use a library than to possess a university degree. As depicted by the definitions above the university has a pioneering role to play in the teaching and research activities of the universities.
1. Helps in Searching/ Locating: The volume of information has built so profusely that a student or teacher feels puzzled to pave his way out of the maze, here the library staff has to play the role of guides to show the proper direction to the information seekers.
2. Helps in Overcoming the Cost Barrier: The cost of the documents acting as storage and communication agents of information at present have escalated to the tunes that it is impossible for an individual to purchase each and every bit of information required by him. The libraries take the role of such store houses that rescue the needy persons by providing the same either free or against some nominal charges.
3. Transforms the Students into Scholars: The Library/ information centre transforms the students into scholars, by developing, cultivating and stimulating the use of imagination. The library provides a conducive atmosphere wherein a student can contemplate and introspect to address the curiosities of his mind. This is how a student gets transformed into a scholar.
4. Provides an Opportunity to Come in Contact of the Actual Field of Interest: While trying to search the information of his interest, a reader comes in contact with other subject matter which sometimes touches his inner and incites him to explore newer and newer horizons of knowledge.
5. Trains the Users to Handle Library Tools and Gadgets: To teach the students how to use the various information gadgets held in the library. These may include encyclopaedias, directories, thesauri, other reference books, electronic documents, CD databases and so on.
6. Ensures Access to Digital Information Sources other than its Own Collection: The University library makes long lasting and economical arrangements for providing access to sources of information available online or in electronic form. This includes access to Internet, CDROM Databases, journals and books.
7. Provides a Platform to held Group Discussions: The university library provides a platform to held group discussions by establishing discussion forums among peer groups and scientific community in university campus and those in the outside world.
8. Helps in Conduction of Research: University library helps the researchers (students, teacher or scientists) in their endeavour right from the selection of the topic to preparation of the final research report. This includes literature survey, access to and arrangement of a wide range of information sources, guidance to keep the researcher on the actual track, avoid confusion and save the time.
9. Inter Library Loan: To arrange information from other libraries for the benefit of the students, researchers and the teachers. This in library science terminology is called as inter library loan service.
10. User Education: The university library at the onset of each academic session conducts user education programmes or say library orientation courses, wherein necessary information regarding the holdings of the library, different library services and skill to use various library tools viz: Reference Books, OPAC etc., is imparted to the library users. Some universities like Agricultural Universities in India conduct a full fledged course of one semester, in the same direction.