Saturday, January 25, 2014

India plans to redesign public library network

New Delhi, Jan 25 
Your street library may soon sport a sleek appearance, librarians will be helpful and informative, fans and AC system will work perfectly, and flipping through a book or a magazine will be a sheer delight. To top it all, you will have access to reading materials on your computer set.  Indian libraries are undergoing a makeover.
 All this is going to happen under the National Mission on Libraries (NML), an ambitious plan of the Culture Ministry to arrest the dwindling footfalls in libraries and give a fillip to the reading habits of Indians by modernising and digitally linking around 5,000 public libraries across the country.
Culture Ministry Secretary Ravindra Singh said NML’s chief objective is to bolster the learning capacity of India, widen the population of readers and deliver a top rate user-friendly library system. “We plan to accomplish this objective through a two-pronged strategy: improvement of infrastructure and upgradation of technology in libraries on the one hand and capacity building on the other,” he pointed out.

“Public libraries have a crucial role in dissemination of knowledge and information. Through innovative ways, we are going to engage citizens in both the physical and digital space and help them access reading material in print and electronic form with the help of ICT,” he said.
The government had approved the ministry’s scheme for upgradation of libraries under NML on November 28 last year. The mission was set up in pursuance of a report of the National Knowledge Commission, headed by  Sam Pitroda, which made a strong case for revamping the Library and Information Service sector.

Kolkata-based Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation has been designated the nodal agency for the execution of NML.“Since creation of new institutions or libraries may not be feasible, it is better to upgrade the existing libraries by improving their infrastructure,” said Dr. K K Banerjee, Director General of Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation.

Thus, new library buildings will be constructed while the existing ones are to be renovated/extended through painting of their exterior and interior. The new-look libraries will have Wi Fi enabled reading rooms with modular furniture, modern lighting system, carrels for scholars, senior citizens and specially abled persons, modern signage, power backup, purified drinking water equipment and washrooms. In addition, there will be specially designed furniture and games facilities for children, besides Internet, conference room, recording room and training-cum-meeting room.
“There is an imperative need for libraries in India to make a paradigm shift from their existing strategy of collection or acquisition of knowledge to access of knowledge. NML is designed to ensure this course correction,” noted V Srinivas, Joint Secretary, Culture Ministry.
 During the centenary celebration of the Oxford University Press in 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said: “A young reader sitting in his village public library should be able to access books and information from across the world.”
In tune with demands of the Internet era, libraries will be automated and computerized. Significantly, in the revamped libraries, cataloguing will be done not only of books and journals but also of all policies of the government in public domain to facilitate easy access and research work. Efforts will also be made to provide reading material in a multilingual mode.
“By providing reading material in different languages, we intend to facilitate equitable and universal access to knowledge resources. As part of the objective, libraries will be encouraged to create more digital resources by digitizing relevant reading material in various languages, which can be shared at all levels. Our vision is to create a network of public libraries where information is digitized and easily exchanged,” K.K. Banerjee of the Raja Rammohan Roy Foundation Library said.
Libraries covered under NML will create facilities for providing e-journal/e-book services to the patrons and procure reading resources to meet local needs. For advocacy and outreach programmes, they will be required to hold quiz contests, music competitions and creative writing workshops. Libraries can also open extension counters in local schools for the benefit of students and teachers. For maintaining data repositories, cloud computing technology is to be adopted by the libraries.
For capacity building, library professionals working in public libraries will be given need-based training to improve their managerial skill and competence to utilize ICT applications.Training has been planned for all categories of personnel -- elementary, middle and top level. It will also include students from Library Science Schools who have just received degree in B.Lib Sc and other equivalent.   
“Training of library professionals is the key to develop libraries of the future. We may eventually go for ISO certification as it is important for the standard practices in libraries,” the culture secretary said.
Staff writer 

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