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Every year, a budget of Rs. 1 crore rupees is allotted to the purchase of books at the Central Library. Given the staggering amount, we decided to analyse how the library works and what their future plans are.

In an educational institution like IIT Bombay, few would question the relevance of the library; many would even accept it’s important without protest. But it is the library staff, who witness hundreds of students use its facilities daily and appreciate its place at IITB. They observe the fundamental role the library plays in the life of an upcoming academic. The Chief Library Officer (CLO) of the Central Library, Dr Manju Naika says that a library is there to support education and research, help in acquiring knowledge resources in different formats and make them widely available for academic use.

Central Library, IIT Bombay

Central Library, IIT Bombay

The policies for the governance of the library are formulated by a Senate-appointed Library Committee, under the supervision of the Deputy Director AIA. The CLO is also a part of this committee.

Role of the library:

The library is mandated to acquire books/journals from reputed publishers all over the world. Over the years, the informational content of the library has increased dramatically. This puts the onus on the staff to carefully select quality content with the librarian playing an important role.

Earlier people mostly came for books. However, as people are increasingly turning to the internet for soft copies, the library has morphed into a vibrant academic environment that seeks to balance its traditional role with that of a collaborative space. In terms of convenience and comfort, this space is quite a step-up over the hostels because of air-conditioning and WiFi facility. There is also a printing and photocopying facility at hand with nominal charges for students and staff of the institute (50p/A4 page) to ensure maximum use. To that end, there is staff available at all times for assistance. Apart from the seating capacity of 500, there is study room facility available round the clock. There is an increasing demand from students every year to expand the library further and make the library a 24-hour facility as they cannot study properly in hostels or labs. However, the administration has been dragging its feet over this demand as it believes that running the library throughout the day will be a highly inefficient use of resources.

With time, as the number of students and faculty increased, the library migrated to an open-source library management system with a simple, single gateway to access all resources without needing a connection via VPN.

Books and Bookkeeping

Last year, the Central Library added over 3000 books to its already enormous collection of 4.5 lakh. New books are recommended by researchers and faculty members based on their interest and needs. The annual budget of Rs 1 crore for books is divided equally among all departments which they can utilise by suggesting what to purchase. However, research scholars can request new books, if there is a shortage, only through their faculty. Depending on the interest of researchers and the quality of material, some journals are used more than others. However, there is no constraint on the usage of journals/books.

On the late return of a book, a fine is extracted from the borrower – Rs. 5/day for the first month and thereafter Rs. 10/day. The charges levied are majorly to curb unnecessary hoarding of books which may exclude others from using the book as well as damage the expensive books if they are not cared for properly. Annually, the total fine collected amounts to around Rs 2-3 lakh. It is insignificant compared to the library budget which is Rs 30 crore. Out of this, Rs 20 crore is allocated for the purchase of books and journals and the remaining amount for maintenance operations.

As per the Government of India rules, there is a special facility for SC/ST and economically backward students which allows them to issue books for one semester i.e. 4 months at a time. Generally, all students can issue any books repeatedly if needed. For the visually impaired students, electronic books, assisting technology and special tools are available in Braille.

Future plans:

Dr Naika said that the library plans to include a silent area, discussion rooms, auto book return facility, online fine payment of fines, online books recommendation system and a mobile library app for the convenience of users. He also added that there is also a need for more orientation programs to create awareness about the facilities available. Since not many people visit the library regularly, an interesting idea is to have embedded department librarians – one or two persons with basic knowledge of a department and relevant resources who will be able to direct students to the right sources of information.

While the central facility caters directly to all departments, it has no connection with the respective department libraries which are managed by the respective departments.

The librarian feels that there is a need to centralise. Since every department requires similar resources, the books may be repeated. This results in a higher total cost. For example, books demanded by the Department of Mechanical Engineering may also be needed in the Department of Physics for interdisciplinary work but it might not be possible to always have the exchange of the books between departmental libraries.

As a broader vision, says Dr Naika, the plan is to move from a reading place to makers’ place, say by a collaboration with Tinkerer’s Lab, which will enhance theoretical information along with practical work.

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