Delhi University's (DU) semester exams are just a month away. And students have started milling around college libraries to begin their preparations. One of them is Shreeshtha Mehra (name changed on request), a second-year student of geology at Ram Lal Anand College. But she dislikes the college library. "I rarely find books relevant to my course there," she says.
Most students are disappointed with the state of college libraries. Those from fairly new courses such as journalism - taught in a few colleges - say finding relevant books is extremely difficult. Students also complain about the state of their college libraries - cramped spaces, ceiling-high bookshelves, a dark and dingy atmosphere.
"When it comes to the collection of books, our library is one of the best in DU. But it is small and cramped. There is hardly enough space to walk between the heavily laden bookshelves," said Dhruv Khurana, a student at Sri Venkateswara College. Though the college wants to revamp the library by constructing a new wing, that plan will take some more years to take form.
Most colleges in the university were constructed more than three decades ago and had built libraries keeping in mind the then number of students. Today, providing space for books and a decent reading room has become onerous.
Yet another issue is the limited availability of multimedia and research resources. Colleges are connected to the university network, which gives them access to resources such as Jstor (online system for journal storage). But most of the times, slow network speed makes it impossible to get through. In some colleges, computers required for research are lying unused. "We want to become a world-class university but our libraries are inadequate. Undergraduate libraries hardly have multimedia resources such online archives of journals which these students need for their research papers," said Devika Menon, who did her graduation from DU and went to UK for further studies. Also, undergraduate students have no access to a library other than their college's.
DU vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh agreed that a number of libraries were unwelcoming and that the bandwidth for university network was inadequate. "Our officials are meeting small groups of principals to discuss their infrastructure expansion plans which will address the libraries too. We are also in the process of upgrading the connectivity. By next year, the problems should be ironed out," he said.