Nkem E. Osuigwe works for the African Library and Information Associations & Institutions. She works as the Human Capacity Development and Training Director. Nkem shares her insights on the importance of social capital for libraries in this post. For Nkem’s contact information please see below in author details.

Social Capital

The world is becoming increasingly more interconnected. The possibilities of connecting, sharing and collaborating with people from all corners of the world are better than ever, as people ‘e-meet’ by viewing posts, liking and following on social media. Moreover, it is also becoming easier to deepen connections we have with colleagues, family and community members through the Internet.

Of course, we still meet and consolidate connections physically. These connections tend to be displayed in different forms. Connections could be circular- formed with people close to us and those in the same circles such as families and those we share the same culture with. They could be horizontal – bridges built as we hook up with friends, colleagues in the profession and former school mates wherever they are. Importantly, vertical connections could be made with people of upper or lower social status. These connections have great potential to be life-changing and of high value when they are undergirded with the principles of reciprocity, trust, collaboration and equity to build social capital.

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and development) has defined “social capital as the links, shared values and understandings in society that enable individuals and groups to trust each other and so work together.”[1] Taking it further, Arena (2019) posits that “social capital is the competitive advantage that is created based on the way an individual is connected to others.”

People have been known to secure jobs and access opportunities easily through their social networks. This is aided by the flow of information and reciprocity within such networks.

In these changing times, as libraries are facing varied challenges in many countries, librarians building more social capital for libraries is a crucial action to take.