DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology, Vol. 35, No. 4, July 2015, pp. 252-264, DOI: 10.14429/djlit.35.4.8847
© 2015, DESIDOC
Received 25 May 2015, online published 28 July 2015
Libraries in Chennai on the Threshold of the Third Millennium: Information and Communication Technology Issues and Challenges
B. Ramesh Babu*, P. Nageswara Rao** and K. Baskar***
*University of Madras, 22/20B Thangavelu Pillai Garden, First Street, Old Washermen, Pet, Chennai - 600 021
**Society for Electronic Transactions and Security (SETS), M.G.R. Knowledge City, CIT Campus, Taramani, Chennai – 600 113
***Madras School of Economics, Gandhi Mandapam Road, Kotturpuram, Chennai - 600 025
This paper presents the survey of libraries located in and around Chennai comprising of academic (government and private universities), public and special. The purpose of this paper is to present the state-of-the-art of the libraries and the specific objectives are to survey and compare the major academic, public and special libraries in and around Chennai with regard to the collection, manpower, resources, and services, etc; to identify the issues and challenges being faced by the librarians and to offer suggestions and recommendations for the improvement of the libraries. A total of 32 libraries comprising of 9 government universities, 13 private universities, 3 public and 7 special have been considered for this survey. The data has been collected during January and mid-February 2015 based on a structured questionnaire. There exists variation in the infrastructure, resources and services offered in the libraries of those institutions. Based on the results of the survey, a few suggestions and recommendations are offered.
Keywords: government university libraries private libraries special libraries public libraries
Education and libraries have been inseparable since the dawn of civilization and their co-existence has been attributed to many landmarks in the knowledge creation and dissemination. In the history of India, it is observed that Nalanda, Takshasila and Vikramasila Universities and the gurukula type of institutions highly depended on libraries which were earlier known by ‘grantha bhandar’ or ‘Granthasala’.
Libraries like some other social institutions have passed through periods of recognition, lull, encouragement and neglect followed by slow growth, decay and then crisis. However, the library scene in the post-independence India was by all standards a golden period.
More and more libraries were established triggering chain of new developments1. The library in an educational institution is now considered as actively participating intermediary between the learners and the vast amount of sources.
It can be stated that, mutuality between education and the libraries have been perpetuating since people have become information literate and perceived the sense of learning. Indian library and information sector can be divided into five major areas as, (a) national library sector; (b) academic library sector; (c) special and scientific library sector, (d) government library sector; (e) public library sector. Due to various reasons the scientific and special library sector is much more developed and modernised than the other four sectors2. There are academic institutions imparting education from under graduation to post–graduation and doctoral level programmes both in general, professional and technical fields under government, private, and government-aided institutions. Accordingly, there exists variation in the infrastructure, resources and services offered in the libraries of those institutions. The libraries are changing in response to changes in the learning and research environment and also dynamic changes in the information use behaviour of users.
A large number of studies have been conducted in the survey of libraries in different parts of the globe and more particularly in India. Since the present survey is concerned with the study of libraries in and around Chennai, literature survey was done of libraries in Tamil Nadu. While Ashok Kumar & Ramesh Babu3 has surveyed the public libraries in Tamil Nadu with respect to istrict central libraries, Nageswara Rao & Ramesh Babu4 and Nageswara Rao5 conducted a survey on autonomous college libraries, their services, facilities and networking aspects. Vinayagamoorty, Ramesh Babu and Gopalakrishnan6 and Ramesh Babu & Subramaniyan7 surveyed engineering educational institutional libraries in Chennai. All these studies focused on the state-of-the-art of libraries in Tamil Nadu and recommended for the complete automation, provision of e-services, manpower development and networking.
The objectives of the study are to:
(a) Survey and compare the major academic, public and special libraries in and around Chennai with regard to the collection, manpower, resources, and services, etc.
(b) Identify the issues and challenges being faced by the librarians under survey
(c) Offer suggestions and recommendations for the improvement of the libraries
The study uses survey approach for which a questionnaire was designed (Appendix-A).
The data was collected during January and mid-February 2015. Although there are number of libraries in and around Chennai, for the purpose of the study, only 32 prominent libraries have been selected to examine the current status and identify the issues and challenges being faced by the libraries. The data thus collected has been analysed using SPSS. The state-of-the-art of the libraries surveyed in and around Chennai has been presented in Appendix-B.
Out of 32 libraries surveyed, 13 (40.63 %) are private universities, followed by 9 (28.13 %) government universities, 7 (21.87 %) special and 3 (9.37 %) public libraries.
Table 1 shows the year of establishment of the libraries, 12 (37.50 %) have been established after 2000, followed by 11 (34.37 %) between 1976 and 2000 because of privatisation of higher education, especially, Engineering and Medical fields. Prior to independence, there was only 1 university library (University of Madras) and 2 public and special libraries each.
It is observed from Table 1 that, 12 libraries are housed 10,000 sq.ft space or less, 8 libraries an area between 10001 and 25000 sq.ft. However 7 libraries function in more than 50,000 sq.ft area, out of which are 2 are public libraries.
The provision of professionally trained manpower is not satisfactory as reflected in Table 1. It is to note that the public libraries are in a better position since all the three libraries surveyed have more than 20 trained staff, when compared to the other libraries.
The quantum of print collection is satisfactory as many of the libraries (Table 2) have built a feasible collection depending on the life span of the libraries. The three government university libraries, two public and private university libraries have more than one lakh books each. Nine private universities, one each public and special libraries subscribes more than 100 national journals. Similarly, 3 government and 5 private university libraries subscribe more than 100 international journals. However, the non-print collection is far from satisfactory which is essential in the present e-environment.
A majority (20) of the libraries don’t have weeding out policy to withdraw the unwanted collection (Table 3).
While Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) has been used in 16 libraries, Colon Classification (CC) is used in five libraries, and Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) in 4 libraries. It is interesting to note that, one each public and special library do not use any scheme of classification. Similarly 20 libraries under survey use Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR), followed by 5 using Classified Catalogue Code (CCC). It is analysed that one special library doesn’t use any catalogue code (Table 4).
The advanced methods are not explored to keep the collection intact.
Eleven different library automation software packages are in use among the libraries surveyed. Among them, AUTOLIB (7) and SOUL in 4 libraries are used and rest of the libraries follow the other packages. However, one each public and special library do not use any software package (Table 5).
In this age of digitisation, when libraries are transforming themselves as digital libraries, 27 libraries under the study are in the initial stages of digitisation (Table 6).
Almost all the libraries provide traditional services. Similarly, a majority of the libraries offer OPAC/Web OPAC service and database search service. However the other ICT-based services such as ETDs, social networking, e-mail alert and provision of IRs are yet to gain place in the libraries (Table 7).
Table 8 shows the participation in network by the libraries. It is almost mandatory that academic libraries shall be part of INFLIBNET and engineering libraries join in NKN, DELNET and INDEST. Similarly, medical libraries in ERMED, agricultural libraries in CERA and the like. But there is no such move for the public and special libraries. The local network, namely, MALIBNET though not effective, but a majority of the libraries in principle are part of that network (Table 8).
A total of 25 variables have been identified as issues and challenges being faced by the libraries in the present context. Five point scaling technique have been adopted to elicit the respondents opinions as ‘Strongly Agree’, ‘Agree’, ‘Neither Agree Nor Disagree’, ‘Disagree’ and ‘Strongly Disagree’ and the results are shown in (Table 9).
It is observed that there exists variation among the libraries belonging to the different types of libraries in this regard.
While ‘Budget Issues/Financial Constraints’ has been ranked ‘first’ (weighted arithmatic mean (WAM)= 4.11) by the libraries belonging to government universities, on the other hand the same has been ranked as ‘second’ by the private university libraries. However ‘Collection Development Policy’ has been ranked first. While ‘Security’ is the major challenge for the public libraries as ranked ‘first’ (WAM=4.67), on the other hand the ‘User training/orientation to use e-resources’; Weeding policy; Resource sharing and consortia (WAM=4.86) are the major challenges which were ranked as ‘first’ by the special libraries.
Further ‘Storage Problems’ has been ranked ‘Second’ by the Government University Libraries, on the other hand ‘Budget Issues/Financial Constraints’ ranked as second by the private university libraries. For Private University Libraries, ‘Preservation’ ‘Interoperability Issues’ ‘Collection development policy’ and ‘Lack support from the administration’ are the issues ranked as Second (WAM=4.33), on the other hand ‘Collection Evaluation’ (WAM=4.71) is the ‘second’ rank by the Special Libraries. It is significant to note that, security has been ranked as first for public libraries, on the other hand the same ranked as 3 by private universities and special libraries, but ranked with 9th position by the government university libraries.
For libraries in Chennai, the management concerns are becoming as crucial as technical processes, technology adoption and assimilation issues. There is a need for special management to ensure greater flow of information, requirement for fund allocation, more staff recruitment and support for technological upgradation.
Based on the findings of the study, the following recommendations are suggested:
(a) Viewing the existing building provision for libraries, it is suggested that institutions should construct separate building exclusively for library.
(b) It is found that in most of the libraries, the quantum of the collection has not been developed in a large scale and moreover the acquisition of e-resources is not seen. This situation has been observed mostly in government universities and public libraries. Further, most of the libraries in general do not have collection development policy. Therefore, considering the urgency for balanced collection development, it is suggested that a sound collection development policy shall be drafted and implemented with necessary guidelines. In view of the ICT environment and emergence of e-resources, it is suggested that libraries shall pay more attention to procure e-resources and subscribe e-journals and databases, etc.
(c) Although all the libraries have appointed qualified librarians but they are under-staffed to carry out various activities. Therefore, it is appealed to the appropriate authorities to frame and re-draft the guidelines for manpower development in view of the changing trends in library and information science. Further, it is suggested that the existing staff should be trained in the application of ICT in the libraries through continuing professional education (CPE) programmes. The existing training programmes for librarians need to be further improved with regard to the computerisation programmes and new courses to be introduced improve human resource development.
(d) Although a sizable number of libraries have acquired computers, it is found that those libraries are not fully-automated. It is suggested that the managements shall take necessary steps to fully-automated the library operations in a phased manner to keep pace with the current developments in the digital era.
(e) Considering the significant developments towards the establishment of digital libraries as one of the features of present day global information society and its importance in the information storage, retrieval and dissemination, it is suggested that especially academic libraries shall march towards the building up digital infrastructure and necessary digital initiatives to go in for creating digital libraries.
The ICT has a positive impact on all the library and information services like reference service, current awareness service, online public access catalogue, etc. Libraries and information centers are undergoing metamorphosis and are reengineering their services, reskilling their staff and reorganising their work space in consonance with changing information systems, better and more effective information communication channels, and users’ preferences for accessing information8.
Libraries in India in general and Chennai in particular have been continuously adapting to contemporary changes in response to the changing educational dimensions, influenced by the media changes and the emergence of ICT and its developments. Hence libraries should raise the level of user expectations through marketing and promotional activities and build their capacities. For this purpose the libraries in Chennai need to come together in consortia and networks to satisfy the information needs of the academic community. Although, there exists MALIBNET, yet it is not fully-operational as planned and the participating libraries yet to get the full desired benefits from this network. The ICT is available in almost all the libraries surveyed which will help to share information resources. ‘But the key factor in making the networks work effectively is the human factor-how good its vision, how effective its implementation, how participative its management and how committed the individual members9.
The academic libraries play an important role in the academic community by providing necessary forum and resources for faculty and students to do their research and advance their knowledge. To effectively meet the growing needs of the clients and achieve success in the management of academic libraries, need to actively address the many challenges for the design and delivery of innovative resources and services. Therefore, the very objectives of the libraries and what these libraries do need to be re-examined in the changing environment based on the state-of-the-art.
The nature and functions of the academic and research libraries is changing. They have been warehouses of published knowledge but with the emergence of electronic/digital resources, now can be thought of a gateway to the resources rather than a mere repository. The future is uncertain but bright. The future library will be a hybrid library which must be user-centerd and expert-assisted. Librarians need to see themselves and their libraries as providing bridges to the past and gateway to the future. They need to establish partnerships, coalitions, and connections, technological, personal and organisational, to ensure a central role in the third millennium.
1. Guruswamy Naidu, N. Librarianship under threat: Direction for future. In Innovation driven librarianship: Expectations of librarians and library users (ICIDL 2010), edited by B. Ramesh Babu & P. Rajendran. SRM University, Kattankulathur, 2010. pp. 103-08.
2. Dasgupta, Kalpana. Libraries and librarians in India on the threshold of the 3rd millennium: challenges and risks. Paper presented in 66th IFLA Council and General Conference, 13-18 August 2000, Jerusalem, Israel, 2000.
3. Asok Kumar, S.K. & Ramesh Babu, B. Structure and functions of district central libraries in Tamil Nadu: An empirical study. J. of Inf. Manag., 2007, 38(4), 181-99.
4. Nageswara Rao, P. & Ramesh Babu, B. Role of autonomous college libraries in the contemporary society: A case study of Tamil Nadu. Pearl: J. of Lib. and Inf. Sci., 2008, 2(3), 54-63.
5. Nageswara Rao, P. Autonomous college libraries in Tamil Nadu: Services, facilities and networking, edited by B. Ramesh Babu, Vinayaga Publications, Chennai, 2010.
6. Vinayagamoorty, P. Ramesh Babu,; B. & Gopalakrishnan, S. Digital library initiatives engineering educational institutions in Tamil Nadu: A Survey. The Indian J. of Tech. Edu., 2006, 29(1), 68-77.
7. Ramesh Babu, B. & Subramaniyan, N. Self-financing engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu: State-of-the-Art. The Indian J. of Techn. Edu., 1999, 22(4), 1-6.
8. Hisle, W. Lee; Top issues facing academic libraries: A report of the focus on the future Task Force. College and Research Libraries News, 2002, 63(10), 714–15, 730.
9. Malhan, I.V. Challenges and Problems of Library and Information Education in India: An Emerging Knowledge Society and the Developing Nations of Asia. Lib. Phil. and pract., 2011. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1744&context=libphilprac (accessed on 18 February 2015).
10. Harsha, Parekh; Library networks in India: A review and suggestions for future directions, In Bridging the divide: Perspectives of an Informational Professional (Selected works of Professor Harsha Parekh). SNDT Women’s University, SHPT School of Library Science Past Students Association, Bombay, pp. 159-169.
Dr B. Ramesh Babu was Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science (DLIS) University of Madras and former Visiting Professor at the Mahasarakham University, Thailand (2012-2013). He has been awarded Commonwealth Fellowship for Post-Doctoral research for the year 1999/2000. He has received a number of awards from India such as IATLIS-Motewala Best Teacher Award in 2011, Prof. Parvathaneni Gangadhara Rao Memorial Award for 2007 by the Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Hyderabad, C. D Sharma Best Paper Award from ILA in 1999, READIT-IITM Best paper Award in 2001, Best Reviewer award from KISTI, South Korea in 2014 and Lifetime achievement Award from Karnataka State SC & ST Library Information Professionals Association in 2015. Twenty eight candidates were awarded PhD degree under his guidance. He has published more than 360 research papers in Indian and Foreign journals, Festschrift volumes and conferences.
Dr P. Nageswara Rao obtained MSc, MPhil, (Annamalai) and PhD from University of Madras, MBA (HRM) from Alagappa. Presently he is working as Librarian in the Society for Electronic Transactions and Security (SETS), Chennai. He has published about 45 papers in peer reviewed journals, festschrifts and conference proceedings (both National and International) . He has published one book titled, ‘Autonomous College Libraries in Tamil Nadu: Services, Facilities and Networking’. His areas of interest include user studies, library surveys, ICT application, web credibility and webometrics, etc.
Dr K. Baskar obtained his MPhil and PhD in library & information science. Earlier, he had served as a Librarian for more than a decade in Dr. U.V. Swaminatha Iyer Library (Manuscripts), Chennai. He has also worked in Anna University. He has also published research articles in the national and international journals and festschrift volumes. His areas of interest include: Manuscript libraries with emphasis on their organisation and preservation in the digital environment and palmleaf digitisation.