University and central libraries see their membership soaring every year, with regular takers for both print and e-book collections.

In the digital age when information is just a click away, it is only natural to assume that the relevance of libraries may be threatened.

Walls of books were what defined these edifices, but in the modern age they need to don another layer over their basic function. The two most prominent libraries in the city—the Kerala University Library (KUL) and the State Central Library—understand this as they are well on their way to becoming virtual research hubs with membership soaring by the year.

In 2013, the university library saw its membership rise by 4,758. The library’s total membership is around 20,000. It is not purely the reservoir of printed knowledge that makes this institution, founded in 1937, valuable. e-journals and e-books seem to have become the watchwords of the new and improved avatar of the library.

The special allocation of Rs.11 crore made by the State government in 2008 will mainly be used for procuring more online material. Of this, Rs.3 crore has been utilised as part of the first phase.

The KUL has already spent Rs.25 lakh for procuring e-books from the Cambridge University Press and the Wiley Online Library. SciFinder, one of the largest online resources for chemistry and related science information; IndianJournals.com, a pool of interdisciplinary Indian journals and research publications; and J-Gate, a gateway to e-journal literature from across the globe are among the services now rendered by the KUL.

Thrust on research

Considering that the library was a research centre, impetus was also provided for online services such as ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Abstract International, which was a comprehensive collection of dissertations that could be downloaded in PDF format, said Deputy Librarian in-charge L. Saraswathy, who added that the kind of exposure that students thus received was unparalleled. Moreover, the students of Kerala University could now be involved in a national community of theses sharing as the university had recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Information and Library Network Centre (INFLIBNET) in Gujarat, under the University Grants Commission, for ‘Shodhganga,’ a digital repository of theses that provided a platform for students to submit their Ph.D. theses and make it accessible through open access platforms to the online scholar community, said Ms. Saraswathy.

The membership of State Central Library, also called the Public Library, hovers around the 60,000 mark, according to State Librarian P. Suprabha. Their clientele is largely students and aspiring competition-examination contenders. The closure of the British Library on March 31, 2008, was considered a huge blow. But around 23,000 of their books were transferred to the central library.

Making available rare books and gazetted documents to the virtual world has also been a significant achievement of the Public Library. All you need is an internet connection to gain access to books dated as far back as the 14th century.