In the information age, virtual libraries are a few clicks away, posing a challenge to tangible facilities. A multistakeholder partnership recently initiated an effort to revitalise and transform public libraries into information centres catering to community needs across India.

As a nonprofit, NASSCOM Foundation launched the Indian Public Library Movement (IPLM) to draw attention to the country's public library network.Ganesh Natarajan, chairman of the foundation, said the old and new should meet for a fruitful outcome. “Libraries are like a pond. Once you walk in, something will catch your attention to read something. Otherwise, everything is targeted information. We are living amidst an internet revolution. Since everything is available on the inter net, not many have the motivation to go out and look for it. A library has a role here. We need a good library which counsels you. Everything is going digital but you need some kind of confluence or coexistence of books, newspapers and magazines with digital resources. If you see a book or a magazine, then you can go digital and search for more. Everything going digital will not be the answer for civilisation,“ he elaborates.

The IPLM will start by reaching out to a million users at 300 district-level libraries. It is meant to provide the users com munity-driven services such as computer training to build digital skills, access to online information about agriculture and health, a place for students to study, and learning opportunities for people of all ages.

Deborah Jacobs, director, Global Libraries Programme, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US, stressed on the continuing importance of public libraries even in today's world. “Public libraries can provide training in using technology to obtain information that improves lives.They are not nostalgic memories. They are more vital than ever today.“ She pointed to the limits of digital resources, which maybe too numerous or not always accurate.

“Even in the US, many homes don't have access to the internet. Public libraries do so much more than just give people books. They change lives as they give so much information on health, assistance in writing and applying for jobs. What we see not in one place, but throughout the world, is that libraries are busier than they ever were. In addition, where women don't have the freedom to go to many places, a library is considered to be a safe place where they could find more information, which they otherwise would not,“ she added.

Source: Times of India, Education Times 11 Apr'2016