World Libraries, Volume 9, Number 1, Spring 1999
Library Networking in India for Resources Sharing: Present Status and Prospects
Indian information professionals, education specialists and scientists have realized that the time has come to share the information resources and to coordinate mechanisms. This has resulted in discernible change in the information scenario in India. A large number of library resource sharing networks like the Metropolitan Area Networks such as CALIBNET in Calcutta, DELNET in Delhi, BONET in Bombay, PUNENET in Pune, MALIBNET in Madras, HYLIBNET in Hyderabad, ADNET in Ahmedabad, and countrywide ones like ERNET (Educational and Research Institutions), INFLIBNET (Universities and Research Institutions) and DESINET (Defence Laboratories), and sectoral ones like BTISNET (Biotechnology Networks) etc. are under various stages of conceptualization, design, development and implementation. The present study briefly highlights some of the major library networks in India. The objectives, services, functions, future prospects and stages of completeness of these library resource sharing networks are also discussed. The article draws its conclusion by briefly mentioning the obstacles to the development of these networks.
The world has been witnessing a knowledge and information explosion during the past few decades. Over 10 million journal articles are published every year besides news items, editorials and articles that are appearing in popular print media. Information professionals who would be the leaders in the twenty-first century depend on information for their work. Access to information holds the key to development. Libraries which are store houses of knowledge and information, and information centers which disseminate knowledge and information, form two important components of present day society.
While there is a deluge of information on one hand, the cost of collecting, processing, storing and disseminating information has been spiraling up on the other hand. This calls for heavy budgets for libraries even to maintain a reasonable level of acquisition of journals, books and reports. Estimates show that a three to fourfold rise in library budgets will be needed by AD 2000 to maintain the same acquisition level as in 1990. Information buying power of libraries has been declining year after year. Because of this, resource sharing and cooperative functioning through networking have become inescapable for libraries and information centres worldwide. India is no exception; for that matter, it is even more necessary to network libraries in newly developing countries like India than in the developed nations. Efficient resource sharing can be achieved by using the recent advances in information technology for realising a network of libraries. Information technology signifies the coming together of the disciplines of electronics, computer hardware and software, communications (in particular telecommunications), artificial intelligence and human/ machine interface.
During the last six to seven years, library and information activities in the country have entered a new era. Individual libraries are coming out of the proverbial Berlin Wallaround them. They are trying to form a larger community in an effort to tackle the ever increasing demands for better services, quantitatively and qualitatively, in an environment already over strained by financial pressures. Forced, motivated, or logic driven, the librarians are coming out of their shell in large numbers.
This has resulted in discernible change in the information scenario. Now a large number of library resource sharing networks like the Metropolitan Area Networks, such as CALIBNET (Calcutta), DELNET (Delhi), BONET (Bombay), PUNENET (Pune), MALIBNET (Madras), MYLIBNET (Mysore), HYLIBNET (Hyderabad), ADNET (Ahmedabad), and countrywide ones like ERNET (Educational and Research Institutions), SIRNET (CSIR Laboratories), INFLIBNET (Universities and Research Institutions) and DESINET (Defence Laboratories), and sectoral ones like BTISNET (Biotechnology) and TIFACLINE (Technology per se) are under various stages of conceptualization, design and development. A host of agencies, like the National Information System for Science and Technology (NISSAT), Dept. of Electronics, INSDOC/ CSIR, DESIDOC/DRDO, DBT, NIC, and TIFAC/DST, are involved. Looking from the participants side, it is common to find an institution participating in more than one network. The ultimate goal of information/library networks is to interlink information resources in a metropolitan area, so that that users could access information irrespective of its location, format, medium, language, script etc. Further, the development of such networks requires actions in several areas such as training, rationalization of information resource acquisition, diffusion of standards, preparation of union lists, generation of database services apart from setting up hardware, software and communication facilities.
The concept of library networking to aid information resource sharing and support activities in libraries has become a real necessity. The shortcomings observed are mainly related to two aspects:
In India, the need for resource sharing has been well recognized but the technology options available until now were limited. NISSAT has taken up networking of libraries in Calcutta (CALIBNET), Delhi (DELNET), Madras (MALIBNET), Mysore (MYLIBNET), Hyderabad (HYLIBNET), Ahmedabad (ADNET), Pune (PUNENET), Bombay (BONET). The present study highlights only some of the major library networks in India.
Towards library networking activities in India NISSAT has taken the initiative for promoting resource sharing activities. These initiatives are aimed at ensuring better utilization of science and technology information resources, minimization of functional load of information centres and encouragement of motivational factors to a large extent by better means of communication. NISSAT only goes to the extent of setting up general infrastructural facilities like network service centres including hardware, software, manpower and other organizational requirements, communication facilities etc. With a change in the development and implementation strategy, the participating institutions in a network are to arrange their own terminal hardware, software, manpower and data conversion.
The limitation of financial resources and space for housing library collections in the libraries in Delhi led to the promotion of sharing of resources by automation and networking and establishment of the DELNET in 1988. NISSAT took the initiative in setting up DELNET. It has emerged as an important resource centre for the libraries in Delhi.
In Delhi the libraries have been growing very fast in number and site during the last four decades. They cater to specialized and general clientele and are of various types which include institutional libraries, research libraries, government libraries, public libraries, departmental libraries and libraries of the universities, colleges and schools. During the recent years, cumulative information has been increasing at a very fast pace and with it the increase in demands of the users. It has been noticed that in the era of information explosion the libraries in India are generally ill equipped to handle and retrieve information effectively. As already mentioned, the financial resources and the space for housing library collections are limited in almost all of the libraries. The option left with the forward looking librarians has been to promote the sharing of resources by automation and networking.
Initially, 40 libraries were directly linked to the DELNET host system through e–mail to promote library mailing, interlibrary requests, transfer of files, exchange of messages, interlibrary services, etc. Side by side with the automation of participating libraries, the functions and services have also started. Presently about 90 libraries are members of DELNET. Almost all participating libraries are now computerized by means of acquisition and fund accounting, cataloguing, circulation, serials control and local users services. Users are able to locate books and serials through Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC). A union catalogue of current periodicals available in Delhi libraries, and a union list of current serials available in Indian libraries are available on online for DELNET participant libraries. A central database of DELNET has been created and made operational. This central database includes the library holdings of DELNET member libraries used as union catalogues of books/monographs.
DELNET provides access to the central union catalogue for books and monographs, efficient electronic mailing facilities to access databases of member libraries. It also proposes to develop a network for accessing CDROM databases available at member libraries in the near future. DELNET also provides CAS and SDI services, consultancy in library computerization, training and H.R.D. and assistance to libraries on standardization, local automation, retrospective conversion etc. DELNET is likely to emerge as a cooperative network incorporating all disciplines of science, technology, social sciences and humanities.
The Calcutta Library Network (CALIBNET) was inaugurated on 21 December 1993. NISSAT, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Govt. of India, took the initiative in setting up CALIBNET, which has adopted a two way system for networking:
CALIBNET established a high–tech resource base and provides the following services:
The need for interconnecting libraries and information centres in Madras was visualized in the Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC) in 1991. Initially six major academic institutions were directly linked to the MALIBNET host system. Two important databases have been created utilising the resources available in Madras libraries. One is a Directory Database of Current Serials in Madras covering 30 libraries, and the other is a Contents Database covering articles published in 300 journals available in Madras libraries. Both these databases are continuously updated and also expanded. They are available for online- access to any user and the information is also supplied in diskettes and hard copy. Photocopies of articles from member libraries can be supplied within two days.
Madras has about 60 important libraries besides information centres like INSDOC. About 15 of these libraries have a holding of well over 100,000 items. These libraries act as good resource centres on the network. As of December 1993, all the 60 libraries together invest about Rupees 8,000,000 on acquiring journals and books every year. It is estimated that 40% of the information acquired is redundant. With the libraries networked and resource sharing implemented, each user on the network can get access to a vast amount of literature, and redundancy can be brought down significantly. A novel and unique feature of MALIBNET is that the members will be permitted to offer their own innovative information services on the network. A membership in MALIBNET is open to universities, colleges, R&D institutions, industries and individuals.
MALIBNET presently offers the following information services:
It is the first library network established in a small city. The launching of MYLIBNET in association with Mysore city library consortium (MCLC) took place on 12 June 1995. There are 16 institutional members. The holding list of Mysore city libraries has been computerised and software has been developed to enable users to access the catalogue and information online. MYLIBNET provides e–mail facilities to its members.
The Bombay Library Network (BONET) was setup at the National Centre for Software Technology (NCST), Bombay, on 6 November 1992. The Network is sponsored by NISSAT. The aim of BONET is to build a low cost library information system which can possibly be used as a model for future expansion of this service even outside Bombay.
BONET also benefits significantly from the experience gained, and facilities created, by the Education and Research Networking (ERNET) project of the Department of Electronics, Govt. of India, assisted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). BONET is aimed at promoting cooperation between libraries in Bombay. The focus is on inter–library activities, rather than on computerizing individual libraries, which will no doubt computerize their own operations and are likely to share their experiences with each other. BONET offers training related to library computerization and networking, and speed up computerization of Bombay libraries. BONET membership provides for access to its centralised catalogues and for E-mail among BONET members. However, access to library related services outside Bombay in India and abroad would require use of ERNET.
The services offered through BONET include the following:
Under BONET the following databases were created:
Presently, 30 libraries and 15 professionals from Pune city are accessing the PUNENET through modem. The users not only access PUNENET data, but also use the e-mail and internet facilities. Following databases are available on PUNENET for its members:
Ahmedabad Library Network (ADINET) was formally inaugurated in February 1995 when a memorandum of understanding was signed between NISSAT and ADINET at Ahmedabad. ADINET has ten institutional members, five associate institutional members and two professional members. A centralized database has been created at ADINET which contains institute master, journal master and book databases. It also organized six work and training programmes. ADINET provided e–mail connectivity to 30 libraries of Ahmedabad.
Information and Library Network (INFLIBNET), a programme of the University Grants Commission, was launched in May 1991. The main aim of INFLIBNET is to establish a national computer–communication network to link libraries and information centres in universities, colleges, universities, UGC information centres, institutions of national importance, R&D institutions, etc., and thereby improve capability in information handling and services. It is a programme for academic excellence to be achieved through establishment of a mechanism for information transfer and access to support scholarship and academic work. It facilitates pooling, sharing and optimization of scarce library resources in the country. As a major programme it helps modernize libraries and information centres in the country through application of information technology.
The National Centre of INFLIBNET is located in Gujarat University campus at Ahmedabad. At present, INFLIBNET aims at computerizing and networking of university/college libraries. Every year, INFLIBNET programme is identifying a number of university libraries for automation depending on the budget allocation. The selected institutions are given funds for procuring computer systems, retroconversion and networking. Application software for data entry and other library functions, library standards and formats, etc., are provided by INFLIBNET to the participating libraries. Manpower development is an important part of the programme. Training courses for core library staff engaged in computerised library operations, have been conducted since 1992–93.
Development of suitable software, standards for various library operations and communication based services (e.g., e–mail, bulletin boards) designing suitable network architecture and preparation of union catalogues of serials, books, non–book materials, and cooperation with other networking organisations like NISSAT, NICNET, etc., are other important activities.
Objectives of INFLIBNET
INFLIBNET is an autonomous institution and aims to provide a channel to the academicians and researchers for exchange of information from sources within the country and abroad.
The ultimate aim is to provide the end users a mechanism for sharing and using information resources and for exploiting modern information technology.
Functions of INFLIBNET
Following the launching of DELNET and CALIBNET, the library automation and networking movement in India is surely catching on. The objectives which are:
A number of benefits are being offered to member libraries of the particular networks. First, one gets access to a very large volume of literature without increase in the library budget because of the sharing of resources among the members. Secondly, the library budget can now be diverted to acquire the most important (even if expensive) information required by an institution, the other peripheral information being available on the network. Third, one gets near real time access to about 1,000 international databases apart from the electronic mail and remote log in facilities. There are plans of these networks to connect and share the resources in the near future.
Nevertheless, the growth of these networks is slow. It is taking a long time to create and provide bibliographic databases of recognisable size, e.g., DELNET took already ten years in creating bibliographic databases of reasonably good size. Without the databases neither could networks be made effective to achieve the goals nor could resource sharing be effective.
Finally it appears that prospects are quite favorable for development of networks for better information services and resource sharing in India. In this direction lot of work has to be done. Some of the problems faced by other developing countries are common to India too, including financial constraints, inadequate communication, non–availability of equipments, less awareness of the value of information, reluctance to development and non–coordination of various kind of activities, resource building, resource sharing and exchange of information and ideas, non–standardization operational procedure, lack of dedication, motivation and knowledge on the part of available manpower.
© 2007 Debal C Kar, Parha Bhattacharya and Subrata Deb.