Academic libraries transiting e-world

HIMANSHU GURU, OP

Libraries today no longer represent simply shelves stacked with books. To meet the needs of students, researchers and bookworms, academic libraries are equipped with tools based on cutting-edge technology. And why not? At a time, when an answer to a question seems to be available from Google, libraries must offer something extra. Yet, are the academic libraries of Orissa at par with the advanced libraries of the country? Are they sufficiently equipped with the latest technology? To find out, Sunday POST talked to librarians of some of the top academic libraries of the country. Excerpts:

“An academic library in the twenty-first century must be equipped with the latest technology to support the teaching, learning and research of the academic institution,” says Dr Nihar K Patra, the University Librarian of Nalanda University (An International University) in Bihar. Patra has authored two books on ‘Electronic Resource Management in Libraries’, published by IGI Global USA & Elsevier, USA.

Book Return and sorting

Patra adds: “The institutions of higher learning offer innovative learning and inspirational teaching practice underpinned by the latest academic framework including research. A library plays a pivotal role in facilitating these activities. The quality of library resources should keep in step with the growth and development of the institution. Besides print resources, the library should have a significant collection of electronic resources like databases, e-journals, e-books, e-project reports, e-reading lists, e-lecture materials, e-reading content and web pages in the form of both open access and on payment basis. A library should adopt advanced technology to make itself more relevant in the IT era where everything is just a click away.”

“There are a number of government higher academic institutions and research organisations such as IIT, IIM, IISER, Central University, and AIIMS that have been established recently in Orissa with a vision of establishing a world-class education system. Institutions set up by private organisations and on public-private partnership basis have also set up library systems. However, it is an irony that only a few of these institutions are equipped with advanced technologies and can provide technology-based services to their patrons,” says Patra.

“Many libraries of Orissa may want to implement and offer advanced technology services to support organisations’ teaching, learning and research. But to implement technology-based services, there is a need for a sound budgetary system. However, a tech-savvy librarian can help an institution or library, in particular, by adopting open source systems or tools. An institution as well as its highest authority or decision-making body should understand the importance of a tech-friendly library. It is high time now for the stakeholders in the public and private sector academic institutions to join hands in developing and adopting the latest library practices,” he adds.

“Although technology acceptance has been a little delayed in the libraries of the top universities of the state, the system has now geared up to change,” says Bulu Maharana, Professor & Head, PG Department of Library & Information Science and Professor-in-Charge, Central Library, Sambalpur University.

“Orissa has always been a destination for quality education, particularly in science, engineering and technology. There are many universities, deemed universities, and thousands of colleges in the state. Recently, the addition of IIT, IIM, AIIMS, and IISER has further strengthened the system of higher education in Orissa. Each of these institutions has a library system equipped with required reading material to cater to the demands of the users. The libraries of NIT-Rourkela, IIT-Bhubaneswar, KIIT, Institute of Physics, IMMT, and XIMB are advanced, with complete automation and digital collections. E-resources and highly interactive websites have helped these libraries to keep pace with the current trends in library technology. Even the public sector universities have been enjoying access to huge amount of e-resources from INFLIBNET and Proquest on consortium based subscriptions,” Maharana explains.

“Not only at the university level, but at the college level too, the number of automated libraries has gone up remarkably over the last five years. Driven by the NAAC accreditation measures, many libraries have adopted automation. The development of a digital collection of Oriya literature for open access at NIT-Rourkela is a praiseworthy initiative in this regard. The institution has developed the OAI registered institutional repository for archiving the institute’s research publications,” the professor adds.

“The installation of open source software in the academic libraries of the state has notably increased. Besides, the state government has been providing substantial support to the development of technology-enabled libraries in the academic institutions. The National Informatics Centre (NIC), Bhubaneswar has uploaded the online catalogues of many college libraries on the cloud,” Maharana says.

“In Orissa, the technological advancement in academic libraries cannot be equal since the establishment, management and target users differ from one another,” says Dr Sunil K Sathpathy, Deputy Librarian & Head, Central Library, National Institute of Technology (NIT), Raipur, Chhattisgarh.

“From the technological advancement point of view, academic libraries can be broadly classified into libraries of central government academic institutions, state universities and its affiliated/autonomous colleges, and deemed/private universities and technical colleges. The libraries of central government academic institutions have a good budget, and the technological advances and their application can be seen in the form of library automation with barcode/RFID technology, availability of e-resources, and digital library/institutional repositories. The condition of state universities and their affiliated/autonomous colleges are badas they havelimited budgets, manpower and technological advancement. Library automation is not yet implemented in all their libraries successfully. The availability of e-resources in these libraries remains negligible.Technological advancement can be seen in the libraries of deemed/private universities and in selected private technical colleges where the concerned boards of management place emphasis on libraries. Thus, overall, except for some academic libraries, the condition of technological advancement in libraries of Orissa is very poor. This state of affairs is due to the lackadaisical attitude of the state government, UGC/AICTE, and other affiliating bodies and private college managements towards libraries, which needs to be rectified at the earliest,” Satpathy explains.

Dr. Sushanta Kumar Pathy, assistant librarian, P K Kelkar Library in IIT-Kanpur, says, “Technology plays a critical role in the academic system in fulfilling teaching, learning and research needs. Libraries are an integral part of the academic system. Adequate technology and services can enable academic libraries to share their resources and services in an effective way. Advancement in information and communication technology (ICT) provides students with a useful tool to address problems in the educational set up. However, lack of advanced technology and resources in libraries are a serious limitation.”

“It is observed that the libraries in Orissa are fully computerised and have adopted changes such as library automation, implementation of RFID, Web-based services, digital libraries, institutional repositories, and other security and surveillance systems. There has been significant growth in centrally funded technical institutions (CFTIs) in Orissa during the last decade. Some of these institutes are NISER, AIIMS, IIT-Bhubaneswar,IIM-Sambalpur and IISER- Berhampur. There are other national institutes funded by the government of India. These institutes are equipped with the latest technology and tools in their respective libraries for the benefit of academic communities. Apart from this, Orissa also has good technology-equipped libraries in some of the private funded institutes where all modern facilities and services are available to the users,” he adds.

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