With the world moving rapidly towards digitisation, access to, consumption and sharing of information has also changed. Digital technologies have revolutionised the production and distribution of knowledge. This requires institutions to adapt so that they avoid becoming obsolete. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can democratise knowledge by providing students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds access to knowledge resources in their preferred language. This can empower these students, who will become knowledge workers, entrepreneurs, or researchers, with the insight and skills necessary to solve local, national, or global challenges.
The pandemic accelerated the digitisation trend in libraries, making it necessary to create comprehensive online versions of physical libraries. Digital libraries need to adopt a hybrid approach to ensure relevant content is available to patrons at the right time and on any device.
This powerful paradigm supports many key functions. It provides access to a vast collection of resources, including e-books, journals, videos, courses, and other digital media on different topics and subjects. Students and researchers can access content from the device most convenient to them at any time, making it easier for them to incorporate relevant knowledge resources into their education or research projects. Knowledge ecosystems can also enable collaborations among researchers, scholars and students across institutions, disciplines and countries by enabling them to share resources, comments and feedback. This is crucial to advance research and innovation.
Another option is to customise and personalise services based on the user’s area of study, interests, preferences and needs. Participants can also be given the liberty to curate content so that they can organise the resources relevant to them, making it easier to find what they require. When integrated with Learning Management Systems, research databases and social media platforms, the knowledge ecosystem will allow users to access and manage digital resources more efficiently. This also promotes interoperability between systems and supports the seamless exchange of information. The ecosystem should also be data-driven and provide analytics and insights on usage patterns, user behaviour, resource popularity and emerging knowledge areas.
Every educational institution should have a comprehensive digital library platform with advanced search engine capabilities that enable users to search for specific information quickly and efficiently. This is much more coherent than sifting through the shelves and catalogues of a physical library for access to a very limited body of knowledge. Powerful search capabilities enable students to look across vast resources of databases, e-books, journals, and national and international repositories from a single window. In addition, capabilities like single sign-on functionality, off-campus access capabilities, a mobile interface, and internal storage can make the digital library the hub of all knowledge-related activities on any campus.
Libraries have existed for about 5,000 years and have been centres of knowledge communities, even in ancient civilisations. With the advent of rapid digitisation and declining visits to physical libraries, digital library platforms can once again help the library regain its rightful spot as the hub of knowledge-related activities on campus. They can foster innovation and creativity by providing a place to share ideas, knowledge, and best practices. They open up opportunities for learning and growth by allowing individuals to access diverse knowledge resources and engage in knowledge-sharing, which can enhance individual and organisational capacities. A network of digital libraries can lead to social and economic development by supporting research innovation, and entrepreneurship, and providing knowledge-intensive industries with the talent they need to grow.
Transforming institutional libraries into digital knowledge ecosystems is essential to meet the changing needs of users, preserve valuable resources, and promote collaboration and innovation. Powerful digital libraries should be made available in every institution of learning and research to support and leverage India’s human capital advantage.
The writer is Founder and CEO, Knimbus.