The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries.
— Cosmos Carl Sagan
Summon Discovery Service (Trial)
VIJETHA S.N | New Delhi
Libraries are at the heart of any institute of learning. A good university must have a good library, otherwise it does not serve its purpose.
Many students are disappointed every year when they do not make the cut to the mostly post-graduate, research-oriented Jawaharlal Nehru University. Since a seat at this university is as difficult to come by as some global universities that are famed for their libraries, the nine-storied JNU library too is trying to fulfil the expectations from it.
“We have six lakh printed books and one lakh e-books available for circulation. We subscribe to 800 print journals annually from all major international and some Indian publications. We also have access to around 2,300 newspapers from 97 countries in 52 languages, and around 55 research databases. Currently, we also have 8 lakh digital newspaper clippings which are relevant to 72 subjects, and possess a rare collection of Urdu, Persian and Art books,” said JNU’s head librarian Ramesh Gaur, who was called in around two years ago to overhaul the library which had been leaderless for almost five years.
“The most recent activity we carried out was to digitise around 20,000 thesis and dissertations, the hard copies of which were lying around. Those that are more than three years old can be accessed from anywhere in the world, whereas the others will be available on the net anywhere on the campus,” he said, adding that when he got there, the first thing he noticed was the mess in the mezzanine section on the ninth floor.
The “before” pictures of this area show dusty books stacked high and almost reaching the ceiling, while “after” pictures show students sitting on wooden benches calmly reading or writing. “The room was hardly used, serving as a warehouse of sorts which was a pity since the view was so nice,” he said. There are lifts, so it is easy to make use of the stunning view of the entire campus as well as the neighbourhood.
“The library has a carpet area of one lakh square feet and a seating capacity of 1,000. It opens at 8 a.m. and remains open until midnight. There is also a 24/7 reading room, which can seat more than a hundred on the ground floor. We have around 200 computers and a special section called “Helen Keller” meant for visually-challenged students with the latest assisted technology. Locker facilities are given to Ph.D. students and another new addition is more plug points for students to charge their computers. All our material has been catalogued,” Dr. Gaur said.
Libraries have to evolve so there is a stock verification done routinely. The library, in a bid to be more involved, has also started the “JNU forum for mutual learning” where it organises guest lectures and author workshops. “Students want these workshops; we have editors coming and telling them how to get their work published, how to write abstracts, proposal letters and everything. We also organise book releases and other talk programmes and conferences,” he said.
The latest facility the library has procured is the “turn it in” software that checks plagiarism. The university has made it compulsory for students to run their thesis through this software that points out any similarities that might exist with the work submitted and any other publication. “The Ph.D. supervisor also puts the thesis through this software, even after the student has submitted the report.”
The library went one step further this past year when it set up a stall at the World Book Fair in the city showcasing student and faculty publications. “That was a first,” added Dr. Gaur.