With the advent of electronic information era and network based information services, libraries all over the world are computerizing their services and connecting their library resources in electronic form. India is estimated to have around 65,000 libraries that include public libraries, college libraries, university libraries, and departmental and other libraries. Computerization of library services has been slow in India so far and it is expected to turn into a movement in the coming years given the requisite attention and fillip.

How the libraries are evolving the world over and the current status in India are summed up in the following table:



Library Type


Current Status


Traditional Library

  • Holdings in hard copy form.
  • No computerization

>97.1% libraries


Automated Library

  • Automation of library functions computerized catalogue, circulation, acquisition, etc.
  • Holding mostly in print form
  • A few electronic resources

< 3.1 libraries


Electronic Library

  • Fully automated functions
  • CD-ROM networking
  • Resources in electronic and conventional form

< 100 libraries


Digital Library

  • Fully automated
  • All resources in digital form
  • High speed optical fiber LAN



Virtual Library

  • Library without walls
  • Provides access to resources
  • Library without resources



From the table we notice that, in most of the libraries in India, IT applications have yet to take root. They are still using the traditional and orthodox systems in their library services. Whatever small automation of library function and services has been done, it is in academic and government libraries. Public libraries are lagging behind, they have not properly planned to make use of modern tools in their public libraries.

Librarians in India can no longer be silent spectators of IT revolution. Libraries in the industrial and academic environment as well as public libraries in the USA, UK, Japan and other developed countries are making full use of the information technology tools. We, in India, must change with the times and learn from latest trends adopting sophisticated technology in libraries and information centres in order to keep pace with advanced countries.

Modern technology has given an excellent opportunity for library professionals to manage themselves better. Therefore, all librarians should be perfectly familiar with the benefits of modern technology and perform efficiently. The automation and subsequently library networking is technologically desirable and economically feasible, in the long run, in modern libraries to provide accurate and instant information through resource sharing in optimum way.

Libraries and library networks are making efforts to get over the impediments they are facing. However, while they may be able to solve some of the problems through cooperative efforts among themselves, they would need the help of supporting or funding agencies to solve many other problems, particularly those related to standardization and quality control. For instance, trained manpower is not available for the data conversion job and to develop databases. Also, none of the University departments provide adequate training in this activity. This situation therefore necessitates engaging raw library and information science post-graduates, providing training to them and then using them for the job. The libraries should however not recruit personnel on regular appointment for the creation of databases covering their back collections (retrospective conversion) as the recruits would not have adequate work once they finish. They should prefer to engage external services on contract basis for this job to clear the backlog and the regular library staff should take care of the updation of the databases on a regular basis. Using contract service has the risk of poor quality input, but it could be overcome by enforcing strict quality control measures. But again majority of the libraries do not have funds for creating the databases.


The following possible solutions are suggested:                                                                         Top

The library networks should first compile detailed rules and procedures which should be in tune with existing standards for the databases developments as well as network operation and then ensure their proper implementation by the participating libraries.

Usually many common publications exist in the acquisitions of different libraries. The individual libraries must therefore check, before filling an input sheet, with the network office/database to see if that title has already been included in the database and if so, download the entry instead of doing it all over again. If such checking is done among the networks themselves, there would be considerably savings in human efforts and expenditure.

The government and the funding agencies must provide financial support for database creation in libraries and library networks, as the expenditure incurred on this will pay back in terms of rationalization of library acquisitions, resource sharing and increased use of information. It may be possible to have allocation of funds for this purpose in the annual and five year plans of the Government, if the matter is taken up by the library and networks through proper channels.

As an incentive to large libraries for sharing their resources with small libraries, a system of credits and debits may be introduced. That is, a library would get a credit point by lending a document and a debit point by borrowing a document. These points may be settled in monetary or other acceptable terms at regular intervals.

The Network managements must organize practical based training programmes as frequently as necessary to train the staff of the participating libraries. It would be good if teachers in library science schools are also trained along with practicing library professionals so that these teachers would, in turn, train their students year after year.

The network management must also provide common software on a cost-to-cost basis for use in libraries on request. It would be worthwhile to get such software developed, if it is not already available. For such software, through back-up technical support must be ensured either directly by the networks or through some contract arrangement.

The database development contractor must be encouraged to come up in large numbers to create databases on contract including retrospective conversion. This would speed up the time consuming task of data conversion. Since a large number of libraries and information centers intend to create databases, it will be lucrative business for these contractors for a number of years.


Conclusions                                                                                                                                     Top

Development and management of library networks involve high commitment and tenacious work, particularly in the Indian environment where majority of the libraries do not have qualified and skilled manpower and also the financial resources to introduce automation and the current information technologies. Co-operation, not only among libraries, but also among library networks is essential for the success of these networks in the country. While the problems and suggested solutions mentioned earlier are only indicative, the network managements have to make considerable efforts for detailed planning, implementation and successful operation of networks. These efforts call for full time work, part-time efforts may not only effect the quality, but also delay the implementation of the networks.

As stated earlier, libraries in India are passing through a very crucial period. Except for the four states in the South, Maharastra, West Bengal and Metropolitan areas which at least have the basic structure, in the rest of the states and UTs the growth is haphazard with no significant and planned development. In the computer age, the important thing to do is computerization of libraries, especially academic and special libraries, for effective and efficient services. Out of 29 States and 6 Union Territories only 10 have enacted public library legislation. This is the state of affairs even after more than 50 years of Independence. Library Networks are mainly concentrated in Metropolitan areas, e.g. DELNET, CALIBNET, ADINET, PUNENET, BONET, MALIBNET, etc. In Rest of India, libraries/information centers need to be well equipped with modern technology and all should be connected through networks. It is for the library associations to come together and discuss at length the present state of affairs and work out a plan for the betterment of existing services and extension of the same by a system of resource sharing through a network of libraries and information centers.
























Copyright 2001 Pawan Kumar Jha. All rights reserved.
October, 2001
Hauz Khas,New Delhi-110016

Note: The Dissertation is based on the sources mentioned in the "References"