The library has always been an integral part of every institution in the world. The first library in the history of humankind dates back to 2600 BC, which was a collection of clay tablets in the earliest form of writings. Records of commercial transactions were maintained as a library in the civilisation of Niles in Africa. Government and temple records were kept in libraries in ancient Egypt as well, and the first evidence of library classification system was found in Nineveh.
Initially, libraries were established as a public library accessible to all, or as private library accessible to a group of people, and eventually, regulators across the world insisted on the establishment of the library as a mandatory requirement for any institution. In India, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has mandated the establishment of a library for every educational institution and has also specified a set of minimum requirements for every library. UGC has also established five National Information Centres, in Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Varanasi.
Integral to studies
The library has evolved from collection of books in the 19th century to the digital library of today. With the advent of information and communications technology (ICT), most of the functions of the library are digitised using various library management software available. The library management software also provides an interface to the students to view the books available, renew their book or reserve their book. Using digital rights management, the software can provide easy online access to the e-content available in the library, and ensure that any student can access the e-content for a limited period. UGC has established a national information network called Information and Library Network (INFLIBNET) Centre, through which students can access various books and journals. This centre is specifically developed for all higher education institutions in India. The various statutory regulatory bodies such as All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Bar Council of India (BCI) etc have also framed a set of regulations for the institutions to set up libraries. AICTE also specifies the number of titles and volumes for books and journals for a higher education institution library. In addition, it indicates the area required for a library based on the number of students.
Different accreditation standards such as the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) also give importance to a well-equipped library. A library should provide a good collection of books, periodicals, journals, access to online database for all students and faculties, a well-equipped computer centre with sufficient nodes, facility for Wi-Fi, printing, photocopy, scanning, separate reading room for faculty and students, a collection of career-oriented journals and daily newspapers and a qualified librarian to facilitate the process. The library may also have a book bank facility. Interlibrary linkage and option for students to access books and e-resources from other libraries are some of the other aspects that a modern institutional library can incorporate. The project section may contain all projects and theses submitted by the students and the faculty for ready reference to other users.
It is important to cultivate a good library habit in teachers and students. Generally, students go to the library only during the examination. It is the responsibility of the faculty to ensure that students make use of the library effectively. This should develop more like a habit than as an acquired external activity.
For example, the faculty can motivate students to refer to the books in the library and discuss the same in the next class. Teachers may also encourage students to read various journals and database available in the library and organise case studies, student seminar or group discussion on the same. Another approach followed in many institutions is the practice of problem-based learning where the students are required to research on a real problem and present their findings, analyses and probable solutions to the class. Institutions can also track how students use the library and appreciate those who make use of it effectively.
Similarly, the placement cell and career counselling cell may encourage students to refer to employment-related newspapers or magazines to identify job opportunities. Many libraries keep the digital content of soft skill courses which facilitate students get good placement opportunities.
In short, the institutions need to implement ways where the library is a part of the daily activities of students. Using the library, however, does not necessarily mean going to the library in person. In the digital age with online public access catalogue and remote access, students can access most of the library content through the online user interface by using a login id and password. Most of the e-journals provide login id and password to all students and teachers. Some of the journals also provide usage report by all users of the institution. There are many library and enterprise resource planning software available which enable easy remote access including search and renewal of books through an easy-to-use interface. A few software even provide mobile-based access so that students may obtain the content anytime from anywhere.
The relevance of libraries for higher education institutions has grown with time. A digitised modern library, if implemented properly, can provide the required e-resources to a student, researcher or a faculty to implement quality teaching and learning in the institution.
(The author is chief executive officer, ePaathSala)