Dr Mahesh Singh is Assistant Librarian at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Patna. As part of the Library Voices series on the impact of digital change, we interviewed him about the importance of raising awareness of an increasing number of electronic resources in the library.
What does a typical day look like for you in your library?
On my first day at NIT Patna Central Library, I was amazed to see users standing in a very large queue for book issues and returns. Nowadays, the users try hard to trace their own required books and documents, and many things have changed. The users do not face problems in searching for the books and documents they require, and they don’t need to join large queues to issue and return books. As such, the role of the librarian is changing. Apart from routine duties, I always consider the requirements of my users, and try to fulfil obligations in advance. I always motivate my staff to do their work efficiently and on time. In the same manner, I have also organised training programmes for our users.
NIT Patna is a growing institute in all manners: the central library has more than 82,000 books, e-books and CDs, as well as more than 21,000 e-journals and journals to impart knowledge to the users. There are always many queries from the users about locating books on the shelves, or about searching for articles from the research journals/e-journals. These queries are often varied, ranging from locating books on shelves to training users on how to use library resources, thus enabling them to become independent information seekers. As an institution of higher learning, NIT Library is busy at the beginning and at the end of each semester when students are borrowing and returning books more frequently.
How do you tend to interact with your library users? Do you undertake any work to engage with users outside of the physical library space?
We use e-mails, user awareness programs, VPNs and face to face interaction.
Do you have any online presence at all for your library and your library collection?
Oh! Yes, we have collections from different publishers. We have e-journals and e-books from Taylor & Francis, ACM Digital Library, ASCE and ASME. We also subscribe directly to The American Physics Society (APS), IEEE Explore, J-Gate Plus JCCC Database, Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC Gold), Science Direct, SciFinder, Springer Link and Wiley Online Journals, and have Indian Standards installed on our computer system.
We also use Libsys software to run library special promotions for online databases, such as Ezproxy.
How do you monitor usage of your collection?
We have an admin account to track the uses records, and also ask publishers regularly for usage statistics of their e-journals and e-books.
Can you give some details about navigating the online library?
It is clear that mechanisms for creating, finding, and evaluating scholarly content are undergoing rapid development and change in the current digital environment, and that new models for academic publishing are needed. It is still unclear, however, who will create the new models. Will the traditional arbiters of content quality, such as libraries and scholarly publishers, step up together to propose new models? Or will scholars establish and implement systems for assessing credibility and disseminating their work on their own? If the library and publishing communities can move quickly to incorporate users’ interests in new forms of scholarship, collaboration and community-based networks, and utilise multimedia technologies in designing new scholarly resources, they will be in a much stronger position.
Developing these kinds of publications, however, will require a change in mind-set within the established library and publishing communities. Professionals in these fields will need to initiate conversations with each other, as well as with new players and partners. Developers of web-based social communities, commercial search engines, manufacturers of electronic devices, and scholars themselves will necessarily become advisors and collaborators. Market research (for publishers) and outreach (for libraries) will include arranging focused discussions with scholars and students, participating in on-going academic conversations concerning publication and criteria for tenure and promotion, and engaging deeply at many levels with the scholarly research community.
How do you connect with users in the new online environment, what is the infrastructure like?
The library organises training about how to use databases, e-books and journals. The Central Library of the institute owns a vast stock of over 82,000 books, and caters to the needs of all students in the fields of engineering, basic science, architecture and social sciences. It has a resourceful stock of over 18,000 computer related books, and a clearly demarcated section for many engineering and architecture branches. In addition to the engineering related books, the Central Library is self-sufficient in a wide category of other business and current affairs related magazines, pamphlets and journals, including TIME and Newsweek.
The Central Library is fully automated and all operations are performed with the help of Libsys – Library Automation Software. The students can issue a sufficient number of books for use throughout the semester, and an additional number of books from book bank and from our special reference collection as well.
Would you say your role as a librarian is changing, if so how?
There is a sea of change in the roles of library professionals in the present era. Earlier librarians were the custodians of reading material, but now librarians are the key contacts for any academic institute which disseminates information by using ICT Applications, such as the institutional repository, library web page and online discussion forum.
Whenever a librarian attends any training programmes, they are encouraged to apply what they have learnt in their workplace.
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