With the launching of Rs. 116.72 lakh pilot phase of the Automation and Networking of Public Libraries Project on October 28, 2011, J&K took a major leap towards providing modern library services to book lovers. Initially, State’s four major public libraries including SRS Central Library, Jammu, SPS Central Library, Srinagar, Oriental Research Library, Hazratbal and City Central Library, Karan Nagar are being automated and networked while the rest would be taken up in the second phase. 

 

                                                                         

 

The project was launched by Minister for Tourism & Culture, Nawang Rigzin Jora at an impressive function at the oldest public library in Kashmir, the SPS Central Library established in the year 1898.  

Describing the project as an important milestone in upgrading library services, Mr. Jora said it would bring J&K at par with national and international standards. He said Jammu & Kashmir has a 132 year history of public library service as the first library in the State, the SRS Library, was established at Jammu in 1879 followed by setting up of SPS Library at Srinagar in 1898. He said with such a long history it was very essential to switch over to the automated library management to meet the present day requirement. 

The Minister described the launch of the project as a significant step towards revolutionizing library services in the State and complimented Director Libraries for taking this initiative as well as many others to upgrade library facilities in the State. He said due to a long turmoil public library services like other sectors had suffered setback but have now been put on the rails again with several initiatives taken by the department for the improvement of infrastructure and collection. He said that the project has multiple benefits, both for the service provider and the service recipient, including computerized classification, cataloguing, accession, storage, retrieval and circulation of books, online information on library collection, increase in operational efficiency, substantial improvement in quality, speed and effectiveness of the services, access to remote users, user participation in resource-sharing library networks, rapid communication with other libraries (including outreach libraries), greater transparency in the purchase of titles for public libraries, and removal of chances of duplication in purchase of books. He said on successful completion of the Pilot Phase other public libraries in the State would also be taken up for automation and networking. Appreciating the automation and networking of public libraries, Minister of State for Tourism & Culture underscored the need for creating awareness about libraries to attract more people to the written word. He enumerated various steps taken by the Government to improve library services and specifically referred to the ongoing construction of the new building for the Central Library at Srinagar and the automation and networking of libraries project. 

Commissioner/Secretary, Department of Tourism & Culture, Mr. Atal Dulloo said that after the successful completion of the Pilot Phase of the Project, other public libraries at district, tehsil and block level will also be taken up for automation and networking. He said the project is beneficial both for the department and readers as it would improve services and also allow worldwide access to library information. 

In his welcome address, Khalid Bashir Ahmad said that his department has taken in hand another major project for digitization and archival of old and rare books with Internet access. He said 472 such titles in different languages have been identified and the project proposal submitted by National Informatics Centre is in the final stages of receiving the administrative approval. He said archival of about 6000 digitized manuscripts in different languages, forming a rich and proud collection of the department, is also part of the project, besides designing a website of the department. 

Giving a brief account of the recent initiatives taken by his department, Director Libraries & Research said that efforts were on to upgrade library facilities in the State both in terms of infrastructure and collection. He said work is apace on the multi-storied new central library flagship project of the department. Estimated to cost Rs. 17.34 crore, the library would provide state-of-the-art library facility in the State with facilities like an art gallery, auditorium, fire-proof blocks for manuscripts, Internet café, exhibition hall, children section, researchers’ cabins and cafeteria. 

A new three-storied block was added to the SRS Central Library, Jammu recently. He said new spacious buildings for District Library Pulwama and Gani Memorial Library cum Reading Centre were constructed and thrown open for public in December and June last. Similarly, he said, construction of new buildings for District Library Udhampur and Tehsil Library Kulgam has been started. He said as it stands today, the department faces a severe accommodation crunch in so far as public libraries are concerned. To overcome this problem, measures have been initiated to have new buildings for other libraries in a phased manner, he added. 

Referring to the selection and purchase of books for libraries, Khalid said that the procedure has been made more transparent and the two committees constituted by the Government every year have been broad-based to include more scholars, writers and intellectuals as members. He said during the current year so far, 1300 latest titles on different subjects were purchased for the libraries. This, he said, is the largest purchase in a given year so far, adding, the process for more purchases this year has been set in motion. He said one of the thrust areas during the current year was to make available books on competitive examinations for the benefit of the aspiring civil servants. Over 100 titles on different subjects were purchased and made available at central, district and tehsil libraries. In the next phase later this year, all block libraries will be also provided these titles, he added.