Is the all-pervasiveness of technology a threat to public libraries? Though the internet penetration numbers in India would suggest that there isn’t reason to panic yet, librarians working at public libraries across the State feel they must do more to keep themselves and their professions relevant.
Many of them, who spoke with The Hindu on the sidelines of the sixth national seminar on “Save Libraries and Librarianship” organised by the Karnataka State Libraries Association, said that authorities must do more to step up on technology to keep libraries relevant and useful to the public at large. Some felt that even if funds are allocated for embracing digital technologies, or procuring digital licenses, it wouldn’t work without actually training librarians.
Speaking at the inaugural of the day-long seminar, M.V. Satyanarayana, CMD of Informatics India, said that libraries are an evolving organism and stake-holders must not view technology as a threat. He said that currently most big digital libraries are created and owned by publishers. “But worldwide, huge public libraries are also being digitised.” “There is a change in medium, of course. But I don’t think there is a threat to librarians. The foundation of librarianship is strong, and the fundamentals are irrespective of the medium in which the knowledge is being made available,” he said. M.M. Badni, director of the department of public libraries, said that while funding is an issue, the library cess collected should be utilised effectively.
The former Chief Additional Secretary Chiranjeev Singh believes that librarians will not be deserted, but that simply their roles will change.
“To keep up with that, there is a need for the state to give IT training to librarians and equip them, and the public libraries, with the latest. If you look at developed countries like the US or Germany, the public library system has only expanded and become all the more stronger and relevant.”
Rajendra Babu, general secretary of the association, said that there is a need to upscale technologies at libraries.
“Librarians need to be trained in order to be able to offer members much more than they can get online. Public libraries across the State are doing well, in smaller centres some are offering IAS coaching also. Such diversification is keeping these libraries relevant.”
The association gave awarded five people for their contributions to libraries on the occasion. They were S.L. Sangam, visiting professor, Indian Statistical Institute; Satish Kumar Hosamani, deputy director, Department of Public Libraries; Ramaraj Urs, university librarian RGUHS; M. Anke Gowda and Vishala B.L., selection grade librarians at the Mangalore University.