Browsing from the desktop

After the Cyber Centre and the IT Corner, online browsing has not been long in coming to the British Library here.

Now members can browse through book catalogues, reserve and renew books and extend deadlines, all this from the comfort of their homes or offices. Key in a password and you are plugged in.

The British Council's attempt is to tap into the vast population of Net users in the country_about 20 million at present_while at the same time reinventing the conventional image of the library so that it strikes a fine balance between online and offline content.

What is claimed to be the world's largest academic and business database, EBSCO, is being put at the member's disposal.

The British Council Library Network now enables all its members to access this vast resource at any time and any place they choose.

As the September issue of the Council's newsletter, `Connecting', puts it, the onsite/ online balance would enable the new age library member to curl up in the library with a Margaret Atwood and then go home to read the latest version of the `Harvard Business Review' online.

``The online information network places virtually infinite information at the fingertips of the member.

Your desktop is now your window to the world.

Accessibility to thousands of journals, articles and online resources at the click of a button has transformed the concept of a four-walled library to an information powerhouse with no walls!"

Among other things, the proposed transformation has meant easy access to the Internet, a multimedia section and computer-savvy staff who can guide and instruct members.

The online services complement the stock of books_something like a `wrap- around' for the existing services.

The changes are in line with the Council authorities' thinking that the modern-day library is that of a compact one that does not need much space because it goes in for the `right media mix'.

For the same reason, the British Library here would not have to shift from its present premises behind the Secretariat at Statue, which is ideal in terms of accessibility.

The Council is looking forward to a scenario in which a member would be able to access all the 3.5-lakh books available in all the 13 libraries in the country in the next four years.

In the long run, all the British Libraries in the world would be integrated in this manner.

By Harish Govind M.

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