A few years ago, Gandhi Bhavan, located in Kumara Park East, used to be the spot where Gandhians, freedom fighters, farmers, and literary enthusiasts gathered to hold meetings and discussions to explore the thousands of books present in its library. However, in the last decade, the number of visitors to the 58-year-old institution has drastically gone down, barring events that take place in the auditorium.
With around 10,000 books in its library, a majority of which are Gandhian literature, Gandhi Bhavan has tied up with Servants of Knowledge, a volunteer organisation, to digitise its collection to make it more accessible to readers. On the second floor of Gandhi Bhavan is a room where a group of people are busy with digital scanners and computers scanning page after page of the large literary collection. Interestingly, ‘Scanning is the new spinning’ is the tagline of Servants of Knowledge.
“The youngsters do not know much about Mahatma Gandhi himself, let alone the literature written by and about him. Thus, we want to put these books out on the internet so that anybody from any corner of the world can access them,” said N. R. Vishukumar, Vice Chairman, Gandhi Bhavan.
Out of the 10,000 books, around 3,000 have already been digitised, while over 900 books are out in the Internet Archive for anyone to read. “We have digitised 10 lakh pages in the last two months. Along with that, we have also finished the digitisation of around 60 Gandhi Bhavan publications and five years of their magazine – Bapu Prapancha. The magazines are also available in e-book format,” said Omshivaprakash H. L., co-founder of Servants of Knowledge.
For better access
With Optical Character Recognition (OCR), the readers of the digitised books can make use of the text-to-speech format, which would also help visually challenged people gain access to the books. “The text-to-speech format will work in the books’ respective languages. The objective of this effort is to make knowledge accessible to all,” said Carl Malamud, also the co-founder of Servants of Knowledge.
The digitised books also provide readers with an option to search for a particular quote or excerpt and land on the exact page of the exact book. Mr. Malamud said, “If someone has a quote attributed to Gandhi, they can enter it in the search box and see if it was said in an autobiography or in a biography about him. It is not a regular PDF without search options.”
More in the offing
While this is the first step towards digitising Gandhian literature, Gandhi Bhavan and Servants of Knowledge want people to bring to them the Gandhian literature available with them for digitisation to make this collection vaster and richer.