MALA Newsletter :: Vol 14. No 3 :: July 2001

Editor's column

Not long ago, it was very common to see, in research establishments, the information function being discharged by a dichotomous set-up of a library and a documentation centre, existing side-by-side, the library often playing a subordinate (even a subservient) role to the documentation centre. Now this dual system has almost disappeared – thanks to the power of the new Information and Communication Technology [ICT] which has obviated the need for such separation. At a time when we are talking about one information network for the whole world, isn’t it unwise to maintain two or even more units in the same organisation performing more or less the same function? Technology, it has been repeatedly mentioned in these columns, is changing the face and composition of libraries, mostly for the better. Today it would be hard to find a library, small or large, which does not use ICT in one way or another – perhaps the only class of libraries not falling in line, is the cash-trapped public libraries, especially in the less developed parts of the world.

As we know, technology offers us a golden opportunity to manage ourselves better, and serve our users better. Talking about it in general, technology is an integral part of the evolution of culture. The desire to create new technologies or to revise them is fundamentally instinctive. So, to ignore technology is suicidal. What is, however, patently dangerous is the uncritical acclaim being showered on technology by its protagonists and the blind belief that it offers cures for all ills afflicting the society. Library is a social organisation, "a centre where people can meet, discuss, argue, learn, get to know each other – a social space". The idea of the library as a social space is in conflict with the raving and ranting, indulged in by technology zealots about the totally automated, digitised, virtual library. They derive great pleasure in proclaiming that those libraries are the best which are accessed only remotely by unrestricted numbers of people without a human intermediary’s intervention. A moment’s reflection will show how specious this claim is. Library being accessible to a wider clientele is of course welcome, but if remote access is the only norm to judge a library’s standing, then, we better watch out. Any service organisation, devoid of the much needed human touch is as dead as dodo. Remote access and personal touch are two extreme postures. There are of course moderates who do not subscribe to either of these extreme views and wonder if there can be a happy compromise.

Looking at the controversy in a wider perspective, technology has always had its admirers and denigrators. If technophobes see it as a force that "alienates, isolates, distorts and destroys", technophiles see it as a force that sustains and improves human life. In support of their argument, the detractors of technology say that the mass production of goods, in the wake of the Industrial Revolution destroyed the rare manual skills and handicrafts of the artisans. In the 12th century England, Luddites were hanged for smashing textile factories, for fear that machines might displace humans from employment. Even recently the introduction of computers was opposed for similar reasons. We know that some of the fears have turned out to be baseless. That, of course, does not mean that we can close our eyes to the negative aspects of technology. However, blind resistance to technology, mechanisation and automation will be as harmful as their indiscriminate adoption.

Libraries, as we have already seen, have gained substantially from technology. IT has helped us to do away with a number of repetitive chores and free our valuable time to offer personalised service, and many value added services to our customers. This is the bright side of technology. But the danger is that if we fall into the trap of `total-technology solutions’, we run the risk of handing over, to sazzy gizmos, what is essentially a service performed by humans endowed with intuition, discretion, passion and devotion.

Technology is therefore not just desirable, it is indeed necessary. We cannot think of certain areas – e-governance, e-commerce, scientific investigation, health, virtual education – to give just a few examples where it has a key role to play. ICT certainly is welcome when it helps us to buy a train ticket, or pay our telephone bill on-line. But when it comes to guiding users to the most important and relevant website to help them solve a problem on hand, or offering the much needed personal assistance in `bibliographical exploration’, technology falls short of expectations, , at any rate, its present state does not inspire enough of confidence. Unrestricted chatting in some cases can be risky. Besides, "sitting alone in a room and chatting on the Internet with strangers does not constitute community!"

So, what does this all mean? As the best-selling American author, John Naisbitt in his latest book, High Tech, High Touch notes, it means "embracing technology that preserves and humanises and rejecting technology that intrudes upon it". What he says about America is equally true of any society – let us be happy by staying in the "technologically comfortable place" and not cross into the "technologically intoxicated zone". "Human ingredient" as well as "machine ingredient" in the right places in the right proportions, is what is ideal. The wise Buddha’s celebrated Middle Path is the right answer to all problems. Libraries are no exception.

K Sankaraiah


New Members


Mr M Baskar, Professional Assistant, Academic Staff College, Pondicherry

Mr N Rajkumar, Consultant Engineer, Mylapore, Chennai


Mr Ethiraj Panneerselvam, Technical Services Librarian, American Information Resource Center, Chennai

Fr A Vijay Kiran, St Antony’s Church, Chennai

Mr Ranjitha Mohan, Scientific Officer/C, KARP BARCF, Kalpakkam

New Executive Committee

At the 58th AGBM held on 8 July 2001, at the MALA premises, the following were elected/re-elected to the posts mentioned against each of them:

K Sankaraiah President ( Formerly the Regional Librarian, British Council Libraries, South India and presently a library consultant)

Mr K S Padmanabhan Vice-President (MD, East-West Books (Madras) Pvt Ltd)

Dr Harish Chandra Vice-President (Librarian, IIT-M, Chennai)

Mr K Viswanathan Secretary (Deputy Manager, LIS, British Council Library, Chennai)

Mr M K Jagadish Treasurer (Library Director, American Information Resource Center, Chennai)

Committee Members

Dr R Ambuja Dy Librarian, ALM PGIBM, Chennai

Mr S Gopalakrishnan Deputy Librarian, MIT, Chennai

Mr S Mahadevan JLA, Capt Srinivasan Drug Res Istitute for Ayurveda, Chennai

Mr H R Mohan Sr Systems Manager, The Hindu, Chennai

Mr M Natarajan Scientist, INSDOC, Chennai

Mr M Ramanan Scientist, L&IS, IGCAR, Kalpakkam

Dr B Ramesh Babu Reader, Dept of LIS, University of Madras

Mr R Rathina Sabapathy Sr Librarian, Tuberculosis Research Centre, Chennai

Dr Samyuktha Ravi Dy Librarian, Guindy Campus Library, Chennai

Mr R Sivakumar Manager, LIS, British Council Library, Chennai

We congratulate them on their election and offer our best wishes for a successful tenure.

The yeomen services rendered by the outgoing President, Dr Suseela Kumar as well as her late husband, Mr S N Kumar, for the MALA and the library profession at large were acknowledged by the President and members.

About our members

Dr R Ambuja has been appointed as Deputy Librarian of the ALM PG Instt of Basic Medical Sciences, Chennai

Dr Samyuktha Ravi took over charge as Deputy Librarian of the Guindy Campus Library, University of Madras

Talk by Dr Ramesh Babu

The AGBM was preceded by a talk by Dr Ramesh Babu, Reader, Dept of Lib & Inf Sc., University of Madras, entitled `Bibliographic organisation of records in UK academic libraries : challenges to Indian libraries’. According to the speaker, preparation of web-based catalogues, although not uniform, is fast catching on in the academic libraries in the UK. Some of the important features of these catalogues were highlighted, as were also the lessons that Indian academic libraries could draw from the British initiative. It may be mentioned that Dr Babu visited England during 1999-2000 under the Commonwealth Fellowship for post-doctoral research programme of the British Council and was mainly attached to the Dept of Information Science of the Loughborough University.


ITLRC at the British Council Library, Chennai

The British Council Library, Chennai deserves to be congratulated on launching its IT Learning Resource Centre [ITLRC] on 9 July 2001. Dr R Natarajan, Director, Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, Chennai inaugurated it. Along with the Centre, a web-based all-India catalogue of all library resources was also launched. This initiative is part of a drive to ensure that the British Council libraries stay in tune with the needs of their 1,00,000 members across its library network in India. To support learning, specially designed study spaces have also been established for readers to use the books, CD-RoM tutorials, learning packages and IT journals. Similar Centres have been opened in ten other of its libraries in India. A special tie-up with Pentasoft Technologies was also formalised to provide information resources on IT and related subjects to its students. A welcome feature of this initiative is that along with the machines, the library’s traditional book collection on IT has also been considerably upgraded and strengthened.

ISTE Training Programme

The Pondicherry Engineering college is organising a Refresher course on `Role of Information Technology in Engineering College Libraries’ from 10 to 22 December

2001. The interested Engineering College/ Polytechnic Librarians, Lecturers in Library Science, Asst Librarians and other library professionals may obtain the application form from Dr K Nithyanandam, Co-ordinator and Librarian, Pondicherry Engineering College, Pondicherry 605 014. e-mail:

TANUVAS library gets a boost

As part of the Agricultural and Human Resource Development Project [AHRDP] a 5-year tie-up between the Union Government and the World Bank, the T N University for Veterinary and Animal Sciences [TANUVAS] and its affiliated colleges received a considerable sum of money to strengthen their infrastructure. The Madras Veterinary College library in Chennai received Rs.3 crores which was spent on its renovation, acquisition of 4,000 new volumes and subscription to many national and international journals. This World Bank project was signed in 1996. It ran for 5 years with the objective of improving infrastructure and study facilities in agricultural universities in the country. With the project coming to an end, the authorities in the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University hope that the State government would come up with funds to maintain the tempo of modernisation generated by the Project.


Hyderabad University to digitalise library

The University of Hydrabad has entered into an agreement with Sun Microsystems, India for digitalisation of the University library over a period of two years. The university will be the first in the country to computerise its library operations, which is being done with UGC support. The Sun and the University have agreed to build a network of digital libraries with other institutes in India to facilitate mutual exchange of contents and services via an open architecture, leading to the development of a digital library info hub in India.

Refresher Course in Librarianship

The Academic Staff College (UGC) of Osmania University, Hyderabad is organizing a "Refresher Course in Library & Information Science" by the end of the current academic year 2001-2002. Intending college librarians/lecturers in Library Science/Assistant Librarians at University Libraries, drawing the UGC scales of pay, may obtain the prescribed application form for admission to the course from its Director. The completed forms may be forwarded, through proper channel, to the Director, Academic Staff College, Osmania University, Hyderabad 500 007.

Changing Role of Librarians in the 21st century

The Tata Management Training Centre, Pune is repeating its programme, "unique for Librarians and Information Managers", entitled Changing Role of Librarians in the 21st Century, from 24 – 26 September 2001. Contents of the programme: Threats and opportunities for librarians and libraries; Knowledge Management: Role of the librarian; Leading Library Systems to meet Organisation performance requirement; Digital and Internet resources; Trends in Media and Publishing industry; Management of Role Change. The programme will be a combination of lectures, group discussions, case studies, exercises, experience sharing, yoga and games. The course fee Rs.16,500/- covers tuition, courseware, boarding and stay at the Centre on twin sharing basis. For further details please contact or Web site:


DELNET and the University of Hyderabad have joined hands to organise the next (and the fourth in the series) of the National Convention on Library and Information Networking – NACLIN 2001. Readers may remember NACLIN 3 was held at IIT, Chennai last year (MALA newsletter, Jan 2001). This year’s event is due to be held at the Univ of Hyderabad for four days, 6-9 Nov 2001. `Net-working of digital resources for national development’ is the theme chosen for the Convention. The objective is to focus attention on identifying and accessing digital resources over the networks. As usual, the first two days are meant for tutorials and the last two will focus on the theme. Papers for presentation should be sent to the Director, DELNET by 6 Oct 2001. Registration fee is Rs.2500/- or its US dollar equivalent for the members of the DELNET within SAARC and residents of the twin cities. For non-members, as well as those outside SAARC, the fee is Rs.4000/- or its US dollar equivalent.


Change in UK library cataloguing format

According to Managing Information, May 2001, for the first time since 1969, the UK library community is set to change the format for all its cataloguing and bibliographic

data exchange. A clear message that UK libraries wish to adopt MARC21 as the standard for encoding new library catalogue records was given to the libraries in response to a consultation exercise carried out by the British Library. MARC21 is the standard format for the exchange of catalogue information used in the US, Canada and several other parts of the world, and its adoption in the UK will therefore make it possible to download bibliographic records from a wider range of internet sources than ever before. What’s more, it will bring the UK into closer alignment with US, Canadian and other libraries worldwide.

Information Anorexia

"Lean means commercial’ approach to information management (i.e. sack almost everyone in the information centres) is one form of anorexia. Patients suffering from anorexia are convinced they have to be slimmer. Even when they are on the point of starvation, they are made to think that they are too big, and must eat even less in order to assume acceptable proportions. The problem is that anorexics often push themselves to the point of self-destruction. Downsizing the organisation, some believe, is similar to slimming beyond limits. So quite frankly, the companies are starved of information to the point where their wellbeing is endangered. They are suffering from information anorexia. The golden rule is balance in all things. As too little nourishment is bad, too much also is deadly. So in information management, too little expenditure on information is harmful. Costs spiral out of control, because the companies cannot remain competitive for knowledge and product development. So, it boils down, of course, to wise and prudent management. One wonders whether internet junkies can be described as suffering from information bulimia?

Heritage Website

UNESCO has launched a new web site offering access to major digitized heritage collections and on-going digitization programmes worldwide. The site, developed by experts from IFLA, is aimed to become a focal point of information on digitized collections. It is designed to act as the `Memory of the World’ virtual library offering direct access to those collections, where permission to link has been granted. Heritage institutions such as libraries and archives are invited to submit URLs for access to their digitized collections. IFLA having the responsibility to major works across the world, has set up a directory of collections which offers searches based on key words, countries and dates. This directory, available at http://www,, enables the user to view existing collections and presents links to the holding institutions where more detailed information, or the document itself, is provided. UNESCO and IFLA will be updating this directory on a regular basis. For additional information please contact Mr Abdelaziz Abidi at [UNISIST Newsletter Vol 28 No 1].

Website on education and training

The number of internet users worldwide is approaching 50 Crores. Life-long learning has become a fact of life. For nearly two decades an organisation, based in Germany, has been publishing information about the world of education and training culminating in series of highly acclaimed and award winning websites, offering free user access: is a website providing free access to the world of learning and skills. Under this, contains information on 6,500 language centres teaching 75 different native languages to foreign students in 85 countries. gives details on 60,000 e-learning courses offered by universities and colleges in 131 countries. is a site providing information on 3,500 boarding schools, in 62 countries while contains information on 600 hotel schools in 71 countries. gives information about 2,700 universities and colleges in 104 countries offering business courses. provides information on 3,000 aviation training centres in 60 countries.

Publication Alert

S R Ranganathan : pragmatic philosopher of information science: a personal biography by Ranganathan Yogeshwar. Bhavan’s Book University, 2001. Price Rs.250/- This personal biography is written by none other than S R Ranganathan’s only son, Yogeshwar. A fitting foreword by D J Foskett, one of Ranganathan’s ardent admirers, and an informative Introduction by one of Ranganathan’s students, Abdul Rahman Kamaruddin, enhance the value of this book. To write about the personal side of the biography of a legend so deeply immersed in a profession is a Herculean task. Though this study is primarily Ranganathan’s private personality, the professional side gets inevitably and understandably interwoven.


K Sankaraiah
58 Fathimanagar
Chennai 600087
e-mail:  Tel: 4861240

K Viswanathan
Old 5 (New 7) Musiri Subramaniam Road (Oliver Road)
Chennai - 600004
e-mail:  Tel: 4991018