In the age of computer and Internet, when information technology (IT) has revolutionised almost every gamut of human experience and knowledge is just a click away, the education system too has experienced phenomenal shift in teaching-reading techniques — for eg, normal classes have paved way to IT-based ‘smart classes’ in school, which are considered as more practical in approach. This remarkable transformation, in turn, has also affected book reading habit among students.
However, officials at Bhai Gurdas Library at Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) and the district library, which have over 11,000 and 1,562 users, respectively, are not ready to buy such arguments and believe firmly that a good library attracts readers, even as a plethora of options are open before them.
Though they agree that there has been a decline in book reading habit among the youth due to presence of Internet, they say facilities such as online public access catalogue (OPAC) and Developing Library Network (DELNET) through which library members and researchers can procure books, articles and documents from other educational institutions are helping them go strong.
The infrastructure at GNDU library is far superior to the district library, which also affects footfall there. GNDU library caters both to the university students and general public. Interestingly, more than 60% of the users in the library are women.
The atmosphere at GNDU library, which is centrally located, is inviting with natural light filtering in and mixing well with indoor lighting, good sitting capacity, centrally air-conditioned and availability of filtered (reverse osmosis system) drinking water.
Beside these, GNDU library also have ramp for physically-challenged students and elderly people, which the district library lacks.
GNDU library has a collection of more than 4,84,000 documents, 14,999 rare books and 2,572 manuscripts.
Former head librarian of Bhai Gurdas Library, HS Chopra said, “I served the library till February 2015. During my chairmanship, I made sure that national-level seminars were conducted, digitisation of as many as 2,500 manuscripts was done, anti-plagiarism software was introduced and online public access catalogue was made available.”
“The Punjab government is not serious about the ‘Shabad Parkash Punjab Public Library and Information Services Bill’, which should be passed. It is the only way through which neglected libraries can get funds,” he said.
“The reading hall of Bhai Gurdas Library is usually jam-packed, and to use the library a user needs to pay a nominal amount of `10 per day,” said Amrinder Singh, a local doctor.
Dr Singh said, “I am not a university student, but I am preparing for further studies. The library remains open even on the weekends and public holidays, which is not the case with district library. Besides, district library shuts down early, but the university library opens at 9am and closes at 9pm (5pm on weekends).”
Last year, the membership at GNDU library was 10,456, which has increased to 11,354 thus far.
Talking about the trend of book reading culture in the university library, assistant librarian SS Ghuman, who has been associated with the library for the past 15 years, said, “The reading culture is inculcated in the students from the school-level and then at the college-level but, unfortunately, majority institutions, especially in rural Punjab, lack it. When a student from rural background comes to the university, librarians can encourage them to read books and make them comfortable in the library.”
“The reading habit hasn’t declined, I feel it has increased rather. Earlier, there were only books in the library, now electronic sources have also increased. The only need is that when a user reaches the library, the library staff should help him find books and give them a friendly atmosphere.”
“For the past seven years, I have been visiting the library daily at least for three hours. There are other libraries in the city too, but the university library has a study culture, which is missing in private as well as district library,” said Muneer Ahmed, research scholar.
“Social media has deviated the youth and the love for books have taken a back seat. To inculcate the love for books, one needs an atmosphere where everyone is studying. Thus the youth should make it a habit to visit a library that has a healthy study culture,” said Dilbaag Singh, research scholar.