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And now, a virtual library

EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION of information is essential for parity in a knowledge-based society. But University libraries, which are treasure houses of knowledge mostly remain inaccessible to the public. Even if one were to gain access, the excess of information would consume much time .

The Hyderabad Central University (HCU) attempts to rectify this through digitalisation of its library. HCU is the first University in the country to do so.

"We are creating a digital resource, converting print resources into digital format. Adequate attention is given for selection of the material. There is a wrong perception that the entire book has to be converted to digital format. One needs to convert only the relevant materials. One-lakh pages of relevant materials have already been transmitted," says Dr. E. Rama Reddy, librarian of Indira Gandhi Memorial Library, HCU.

Initially thesis, dissertations, project reports and the reports of presentations done by various experts in their respective fields are converted into the digital format.

"One thousand PhD thesis and several thousand projects have been completed in HCU. The central government finances most of the studies but the final output was never provided to the public," he says adding, "there are research scholars in other universities who might be studying a topic which was already done in this University. Digitalisation would prevent any duplication of work and wastage of money."

The subscriber would be requested to pay for "information" owned by other firms.

"In the coming days, resources for higher education would be reduced by the government, even today the internal resources are meagre. So, this ingeniously becomes another way of generating revenue," reasons the librarian.

Apart from digitalisation of the library, the nature of the library and the work of the librarian would also undergo major changes.

Traditionally, the library purchases and owns the resources. It lends books to its subscribers. After digitalisation the librarywould act more

as an intermediary between the author and the reader. Then, libraries will no longer own the resources, but only serve as a channel for information.

"The traditional librarian had to know only about the proper arrangement and maintenance of the library. But after digitalisation, the librarian would have to arrange the information to provide it to the user. That is very challenging," says Dr. Reddy.

JERRY THOMAS