The Indian government has taken up an ambitious project of digitizing public libraries to ensure ease of access of books to the people. The National Mission on Libraries – as the scheme has been termed – also entails the creation of the National Virtual Library of India which will act as a comprehensive collection of information generated within the country. The rich repository of information, it is believed will act to spur reading habit among the masses besides of course facilitating research and information sharing. Emphasis will also be paid to ensure all including those from rural or under developed regions to have equal priority over information.
The scheme involves six libraries that function under the central government’s ministry of culture, 35 central libraries in the various states and 35 district libraries to be developed and interlinked as part of the NML project. This apart, 629 district libraries will also be provided with internet connectivity. The Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF) based in Kolkata will act as the nodal agency overseeing the implementation of NML project which is expected to cost 400 crores.
“Making information more accessible is now paramount in the library sector. Our libraries may be filled with books, but in the digital age, they need to provide access to information that is available online. Digital libraries provide speedy access to information and they also bridge barriers of time and space,” said Ravindra Singh, secretary, ministry of culture outlining the mission of the project.
As part of the NML efforts, enhancing the infrastructure as well as the services offered by the libraries will be accorded importance. Reading habits of members will also be surveyed all across the country as well as among those from the rural and urban regions to determine ways to improve services.
“The content should be available to anyone who has access to the Internet. In new content generation, children’s needs should be given priority. Content will also be generated on skill development and matters concerning regional and local interest,” said Dr Banerjee, director general, RRRLF. “There is also need to create a ‘youth space’ in libraries – informal and comfortable with ICT facility,” he added.