Suresh Jange is the University Librarian and NAAC coordinator at Gulbarga University. He holds the prestigious position of Council Member (South) – Indian Library Association, New Delhi (2019-2021) & also the President of Karnataka University Library Association (KULA) & Hyderabad Karnataka Librarians’ Association.
From the spirit of Librarianship to the evolving role of librarians, Suresh Jange talks at length about the usage of Information and Communication Technology tools in the libraries. He also elaborates upon the newer responsibilities added to the traditional yet evolving role of a librarian.
Suresh Jange goes on to voice his concern regarding the systemic apathy towards the discipline of Library and Information Science. Also, his insights into the user interaction and the demographic and geographic distribution of issues, as well as opportunities, make it insightful for various industries and target groups.
Following is an excerpt from the interview Wonderpublish conducted with Suresh Jange recently:
Q. 1: When we think of librarians, a very traditional image comes to mind. Can you tell us what is the role of a librarian in today’s context?
Ans. We the librarians have a passion for identifying, selecting, acquiring, maintaining and disseminating information resources to cater to the academic and research pursuit of our user community. Although we are talking about the technological arena, the basic philosophy of librarianship remains the same. The father of Library Science in India, Dr S R Ranganathan has enumerated the five laws of library science which are followed even today.
So contrary to the general perspective, we are providing digital information services based around e-resources. We also ensure that we are providing the right information to the right user at the right time.
Q. 2: Has this pandemic added newer responsibilities to your role?
Ans. This COVID-19 pandemic has been a great experience for all of us. It has created a very healthy hazard. It’s a great challenge for each and every one of us. But more importantly, this pandemic has made us understand the values of life; how we have to do the academic and research activities, how to learn, and how to teach!
It has all been a great challenge for the teaching community and the librarians in the country. Rather than looking at it as a challenge, I look at it as an opportunity. Because the challenges are bound to be there irrespective of any pandemic. All we have to do is to convert those challenges into opportunities.
And from the librarians’ perspective, we are with the users virtually. And that is made possible only with the help of Information and Communication Technology, particularly the online learning tools and teaching aids. We are also making use of social networks like Facebook, WhatsApp and other tools. But one thing I wish to highlight here is that it is for the first time in the annals of Library and Information Science, we the librarians are openly utilizing the online teaching tools for our user orientation. And going ahead I’m sure all the librarians are going to make the best of the technology to ensure the desired information reaches our user community.
Q. 3: Can you tell us about some of the tools you have been using?
Ans. Information and communication technology has been probably the greatest innovation of mankind. Knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, we all have been making use of these technologies in one aspect of life or the other, and librarians are not an exception to it.
When we librarians talk of technology, the first thing that comes to mind is library automation. The terminology may differ from Library Computerization to Library Automation to now Digital Library. Since my inception from Hyderabad, then moving to Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bombay and now at Gulbarga University, we have been using CDS-ISIS. It’s DOS-based library software. Then came WinISIS, after which came SOLE, Slim Plus, Libsys. Now I’m using Koha. So in addition to that, for creating the institutional repository we use DSpace. For providing the remote access we are using, EZproxy or Shibboleth.
And a lot of mobile-based applications like National Digital Library of India. Also, for creating and building the competitive urge of our students, we are developing and using the mobile-based applications and providing access to Kindle-based collections. There are lots of other reference and management tools especially Mendeley that has been used widely here. Other QuestionPoint reference services like OCLC have also been adopted in our library. Of course, the RFID service has been the talk of the town. It’s one of the best state-of-the-art technologies which is being implemented in the library.
And when it comes to user interaction and library automation, one of the most essential aspects is self-issue and self-return, where the user issues and returns books on this own rather than depending on the administrator. And in terms of e-attendance, the magnetic gates are being used which record your attendance automatically when you enter the library. So that sort of usage is very important from the perspective of the management and the perspective of NAAC, which says that the utilization of the library is of utmost importance.
Q. 4: What’s the response from the students?
Ans. For students, the location of the library is very important, especially the academic and research libraries. I’m not talking about the IITs or IIMs or a central university. I’m talking from the perspective of a PU College library or school library or a degree college library or a state university. Whether the library is placed in a metropolitan city or rural area, it all depends upon that.
In cities like Gulbarga, which are neither fully urban nor rural, there is definitely an evolving passion for e-books. When we have all become technology savvy in all sorts of services, then why not e-books? We the librarians have to bring out that passion by building a culture of electronic resources. And once that culture is developed, I’m sure e-books are going to dominate in a country like India.
Q. 5: Are we on par with the librarians abroad in terms of technology adoption?
Ans. Technologically we are definitely behind from our International peers. Having been an International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) fellow at Victoria University, Wellington and also a Commonwealth Fellow at the University of East London in the UK, it is my own experience that we have still a long way to go. As far as building the required IT infrastructure is concerned, the biggest challenge we face here is the lack of support from the management.
Also, it’s very important that an institution’s library receives the importance as a primary entity, and not as a secondary unit.
Q. 6: When are we going to see students back in the libraries?
Ans. As 2020 has turned out to be purely a pandemic year, hopefully, maybe by February the libraries may start seeing students coming in.
Q. 7: So once the normalcy sets in, do you think the technological advances will remain in use?
Ans. See, one of the most important features of the success of a librarian is ‘adaptability’. So you have to adapt to the change. And the changes will definitely exist. So it is my belief that going ahead we’ll have an even more advanced technological infrastructure where the facilities will be made available to the user community.
Q. 8: What’s the one thing that worries you?
Ans. My concern remains with the rate of growth of the Library and Information Science as a subject. And more importantly, as the president of the two important associations, I worry about the incumbent librarians, incumbent students who pass out with the master’s degree and face an acute lack of employment opportunities.
Q. 9: What are your expectations from the state as well as the Government of India?
Ans. There are still systemic discrepancies remaining between the status of a teacher and a librarian. I expect from the Govt. of India and especially the University Grants Commission(UGC) as well as the Karnataka State Government to include the librarians under the definition of a teacher. This will automatically generate more employment opportunities for librarians. Right now the government is recruiting hundreds and thousands of teachers but not a single librarian. We need to dispense with this sort of discrepancy.
Also, you need to make the library a happening place, because all the learning is taking place there. So we need to bring the level of infrastructure of state libraries on par with the levels of central universities. The required support should come from the state governments.
Q. 10: Any message you’d like to give to your fellow librarians and students?
Ans. To my loving students, I request you to maintain the required social distance. Also, don’t go out unnecessary. Wear a mask. Follow all the norms. And remember, this is the best opportunity the God has given you to live with your family, to develop yourself as one of the most competitive personalities of India. You have plenty of time. There is a lot of study material and tools available, so kindly improve your skills not only in your subject but your overall personality.
Now, for my fellow librarians, you accepted the challenges of this pandemic quite passionately and have provided excellent service to our user community. But I make only one request to all of you that, move forward with a positive attitude and a strong base of librarianship and with due respect to the father of Library science in India, Dr S R Ranganathan, ‘Render the services to ensure that your visibility is rising to a higher extent rather than saying that you have not been cared enough’.