Browsing in the new age

Browsing in the new age

Shelf Life

Dr P V Konnur

Please tell me you have articles on farmer suicides, please.” The student, researching farmer suicides, was relieved when Dr P V Konnur, the resident librarian at Bangalore University Library since 2005, fished out 50 odd articles on the subject from the library archives. 

Just as much as we are thankful for being a part of the era of communication, let’s admit, we’ve had to let go of some habits like sending snail mail, or making trunk calls. Have we also moved on from books to e-journals? The internet continues to evolve every day, breaking away from expectation. Is the traditional library expected to keep up or is it time for it to create a niche of its own?

Going digital

Prarthna (21), a student of medicine at JJM Medical College in Davangere, says the two spaces have found a perfect way to co-exist in her life. “For research pertaining to my syllabus and studies, I prefer the traditional library. But when I want to check out the latest restaurants and cafes in town, I simply ‘google it’,” she says. But for Tanu Kulkarni, a first-year student of psychology at Mount Carmel College, the internet has become almost indispensable while looking up material for her core subjects. “If I can get access to information with a few clicks, then that is what I would opt for,” she says.

While we can see that the balance has tilted towards the internet—with it becoming more user-friendly and the wealth of information made available every day—it still hasn’t taken away the charm of a traditional library. Some of us still continue to borrow books and stroll around aisles of the library. We take in the mood, we inhale the familiar scent of pages once in a while, and we soak in the ambience, enjoying every moment of the experience.

What librarians have to say

For Konnur, his job has been the best thing that has happened to him. The library where he works today has more than 1,00,000 books, covering topics ranging from law to gardening. He takes pleasure in encouraging university students to visit the library to research, read and learn more. “One of the biggest challenges that teachers face today is plagiarism. What once used to be ‘As is mentioned in chapter 2’ has now been replaced by ‘As you will find under the url…’ Students misinterpret that as permission to copy and paste from articles on the internet. What’s worse, most of what you find on the web is not even authenticated,” explains Konnur.

Quick-fix solution

Aneesha Coelho (25), a manager of strategic planning at a TV channel, finds herself spending close to 12 hours a day on the web. Describing life today as the “age of impatience,” she says that due to immense time pressure, she prefers to turn to the internet in  times of need. “That way,” she says, “I am not worrying about spending more time in a library.”

Charu Sapra, who has been in charge of the British Council Library, Bangalore, for more than a year now, agrees that change has taken place. “But it does not mean the end of the world for libraries,” she argues. “Ever since the shift towards the web, the British Council has started various programmes for members as well as the public like seminars, workshops, book readings etc. People usually go a step further by looking up books and journals in their area of interest when they visit the library for such events.” But she is quick to add that the library almost only has regular members, never walk-ins.
While some students prefer to look up e-journals for streamlined information flow, others prefer books that were written decades ago. “Wikipedia has become the new encyclopedia. But who is checking the information on these sites?” wonders Konnur. Any answers?