MALA Newsletter :: Vol 14. No 4 :: Sep 2001

Editor's column

One day Emperor Shahjehan wanted to see the progress of work on his pet project Taj Mahal, and so went, disguised as an old man in rags, to the banks of the Yamuna, the work spot. He asked the first stone cutter that he had met as to what he was doing. "Don’t you see, old man"? he shouted, "I am working hard. So, no time for answering silly questions". The Emperor was impressed with the sincerity of the stone cutter. He then went to the second stone cutter nearby and asked the same question. The reply this time was that he did not want to be distracted from doing the fine art work of cutting stones. The Emperor was impressed by the professionalism of the worker. He met the third one and repeated the question. The third reaction was the most impressive. The stone cutter replied, with a tinge of annoyance in his eyes, "I am building the Taj Mahal, old man, and if I keep answering idle questions, I shall never be able to complete the most beautiful monument on the earth".

There are at least three lessons to note in this episode all inter-related – for all of us - (1) all the people and not just the senior officials who work for an organisation should be aware of its aims and objectives (2) for achieving the best results, all of them should work together, as one large team, each worker cooperating with the others, fully and wholeheartedly; in other words, a spirit of synergy should pervade the whole organisation – reaffirming that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; (3) lastly - and the most important message is that every one should be absolutely clear about the ultimate aim of the organisation, the final product or the big picture. If these three messages are not clearly understood, what might happen is that (a) the staff will often be working at cross-purposes (b) there will be no team spirit and so the culture of "them and us" will prevail with disastrous effects, and (c) the finished product is unlikely to be as good as it should be.

The organisation’s performance depends very much on all its stakeholders being well aware of and, even more important, be following these lessons. Unfortunately, however, the average worker hardly ever "sees beyond his nose". This shortsightedness is very much evident in our own profession. Sometimes, we pay too much attention to small details that we may completely miss the main aim of our organisation and of our profession. We are far too obsessed by the task on hand, however trivial, that we forget the end-product; in other words we often fail to see the wood for the trees.

Try and quiz any of our colleagues working in libraries and information centres of any kind on what the aim of their job is. We may hear answers like `I manage the `circulation desk’ or `I am responsible for networking and resource

sharing’. Today, the stress is less on the more traditional job objectives like cataloguing and classification - thanks to the changes brought about by the ICTs. This is fine, of course, as far as the short term objectives are concerned. But, what about the long term objectives? Can we afford to be ignorant of them? It is a great pity, one is not likely to hear colleagues say, as did the third stone-cutter in the Taj Mahal episode, that they are working towards achieving their ultimate corporate goals; or they are involved in building the nation, or actively contributing to the progress of our society in economic, political, social and cultural fields. Even at the annual conferences of our profession’s premier pan-Indian bodies, we often hear the leading lights talking more about pay scales and promotions [pay and promotions cannot be neglected though] than about the crucial role we play in transforming a poor, backward, semi-literate society into a progressive, developed, energetic, vibrant and well informed society, occupying a pride of place in the comity of nations., of course, with the help of the new technologies available to us now.

What is happening, unfortunately, is that the average library worker [some might say, we should not exclude even the above average in this bracket] does not exhibit a wholesome inclination to read and learn. With a few honourable exceptions, we do not have the right leadership with the broad vision to enlighten the rank and file on the most crucial role our profession has to play in society.

To a discerning mind, the moral of the Taj Mahal story is a central tenet of the Total Quality Management [TQM] or the total organizational effectiveness. The principal theme of the TQM is that it is the customers or users’ needs and interests that have to drive the entire organisations. This `customer is first’ culture has to be visible all through the library and its host organisation, right from the boardroom at the top to the shop floor at the bottom. In other words, each individual, across the board, has to be absolutely clear about his or her job goals as well as the ultimate aims of the organisation and how closely they relate to each other. That is to say the vision of the big picture should always be in front, as it were, of each and every individual worker and should be a source of inspiration to him or her. Only then the customers’ needs will be fully met and the organisation will prosper and flourish.

Most of the first generation Indian librarians, led by Dr S R Ranganathan, showed us who a true librarian was and what his true mission was. Is there a dearth of leaders with vision and imagination now? Are we too mesmerised by the razzmatazz of technology that we are unable to see clearly the goals ahead?

Let us hope most sincerely that this is not so.

K Sankaraiah


New Members


Ms K Kalaiselvi, Senior Librarian, Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore

Ms Kalpana Parthiban, Assistant Librarian, Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore

Ms Valarmathy, Assistant University Librarian, Anna University, Chennai

Ms S Chandra, Librarian, Apollo Hospital, Chennai

Ms Rohini Radhakrishnan, Librarian, G S S Jain College, Chennai

Ms C V Padma, LIS, Tata Consultancy Services, Sholinganallur

Mr V Viswanathan, Chief Librarian, Hindustan College of Engineering, Padur, Kelambakkam

IT in information retrieval

MALA, in collaboration with the British Council, organised a panel discussion on `IT in Information Retrieval’ on 25 August 2001 to commemorate the birth anniversary of Dr S R Rangantahan. Prof Parthasarathy chaired the session. More than 20 information professionals from different institutions attended the meeting. Mr H R Mohan of The Hindu felt that there is a mismatch between the functioning of the librarians and the customers’ expectations. Since there will be demand from organisations for Knowledge Managers, there is an urgent need for change in the outlook among the information professionals. One problem faced was that some valuable information is available only on Intranets and is not accessible freely to the public. A couple of suggestions were made that (a) MALA organise a workshop on creation of web sites for information sharing and also `selling information and generating revenue’ and (b) MALA undertake to create databases in specific subject areas and seek commercial sponsorship for the purpose. As a preliminary work, members’ profiles could be collected to get an idea of their subject strengths. Prof Parthasarathy asked MALA to organise such meetings at periodical intervals to share members’ experiences and exchange views.

MALA website

A prototype website of MALA has been created and efforts are on to incorporate more information and also further refine it. MALA wishes to place on record its gratitude to Mr H R Mohan, our Executive Committee member, who has spent considerable amount of time in developing the site. The URL is:

MALA would be grateful for comments and feedback from members. Please do visit our site as soon as possible.

State Library Planning Committee meeting

The T N State Library Planning Committee met on the morning of 13 September at the Secretariat, with the new School Education Secretary in the Chair. Present at the meeting were the Director of Public Libraries, Director of RRRLF and its representative in S India, Librarian, Connemara Public Library, President of MALA, Mr K Sankaraiah, Mr N S Jagannathan, nominee of the Chairman of RRRLF and Mr N Avadaiappan. After thanking the Foundation for its grant last year and also reviewing the expenditure for the same period, allocation of funds for the coming year was finalised. A request was made for increasing the RRRLF’s assistance for the year 2002-2003 as well as for non-matching grant to strengthen the children’s section of the District Central Library (Devaneya Paavanar Library). A proposal to construct 14 new library buildings next year was brought up. It was suggested that preference be given to Sivaganga and Nagapattinam libraries. The Chairman enquired if RRRLF grant could be considered for reorganising private libraries. It was agreed that Srivaikuntam Children’s library could be considered under this category. Some committee members felt that the requisition of one computer was not enough. The whole world is marching fast towards a fully networked environment. So, the T N State should not lag behind. It should therefore try to instal computers at least in all the District Central Libraries and bring them under a Wide Area Network, with the State Central Library heading it. President, MALA drew the Committee’s attention to the practice of penalising the librarians for loss of books and requested the Chairman to follow the example of neighbouring States like Andhra Pradesh. Director, RRRLF agreed to send to School Education Secretaries their suggestions made earlier to the Govt of India in this regard.



A two-day national conference on `Recent Advances in Information Technology (READIT-2001)’ was organised by the Kalpakkam Chapter of MALA, in collaboration with the Central Library, IIT, Madras and MALA on 18 and 19 September 2001. The conference theme was `Digital Asset Management’. The conference was preceded by a tutorial on 17 September and the theme was `Digitize your library’. In his inaugural address, Mr A M Raman, Vice-Chairman, Science City stressed the need to assess the needs of the user community before embarking on digitizing the collection. There was overwhelming response with 90 participants for the tutorials. The conference was inaugurated by Dr M Anandakrishnan who stressed the need for information professionals to take the responsibility for creation of assets and disseminate information to customers. Technical sessions during the following two days included digital asset management, infrastructure for digital management, cyber publishing, e-collections, IPR and information retrieval strategies, digital solutions from industries and content/knowledge management. Many eminent speakers including some non-librarians led the sessions. More than 150 delegates from all over the country and one from Bangladesh participated in the 2-day conference which had 7 sessions covering the different aspects of digital asset management. The participants felt that similar programmes should be organised every year. For more details, please visit the website


INSDOC training programmes

INSDOC is organising an UGC-sponsored Refresher Course in Library and Information Science for college/university library professionals. The course will be organised in two batches – Batch 1 between 19 November and 13 December 2001 and Batch 2, between 4 and 27 February 2002. Academic librarians from all over India can participate and the selection will be based on UGC norms. For further details please contact Mr M Natarajan, Scientist-in-charge, INSDOC Regional Centre, Chennai 600 113 e-mail:


South India Library Conference

We have been officially informed information that the first South India Library Conference will be jointly organised during 18-19 October 2001 by Potti Sreeremalu Telugu University, Hyderabad and the Indian Library Association, South Zone, Hyderabad. The main objectives of the conference are: to study and evaluate the problems and prospects of computerization; to enhance the image of university/college libraries as centres of excellence; to improve the quality of higher education by effective library support; to develop and promote access-based information support services; to raise the morale of the professionals through equitable personnel policies; to evaluate, analyse the current infrastructure and chalk out plans to regenerate the overall system; to focus on CAS, retirement benefits etc. on par with the teaching staff and constitute a forum to achieve the same. Venue: Dr Nandamoori Taraka Rama Rao Kalamandira, Lalitha Kala Kshetram, Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Nampally, Public Gardens, Hyderabad 500 004. For further details contact Dr Sankara Reddy, University Librarian and Senior Vice-President, ILA, Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University Library, O U Road, Hyderabad 500 007

Information and Communication Society of India

Information and Communication Society of India, or ICSI

for short, was formed with Prof B Guha as President and more than a dozen senior librarians, documentalists and information scientists including S C Biswas, S N Dutta, S N Sur, S B Ghosh and others occupying various positions. The Society aims to (a) collect and disseminate relevant knowledge on information and communication, (b) initiate projects, studies, surveys, data analysis and consultancy in the field of communication and information; (c) provide editorial and technical support to bring out publications in print and electronic forum; (d) impart training, organize seminars and workshops on information, communication and related areas; (e) maintain liaison and collaborate with similar national and international organisations; (f) publish and distribute materials devoted to information, communication and related areas; (g) promote automation, networking, application of Internet and advanced information and communication technologies in library and information environment; (h) and to associate with such programmes and activities as are necessary and useful for promoting the aims and objectives of the Society. For further details contact the Secretary, Information and Communication Society of India, 80 Shivalik Apartments, Alakananda, New Delhi 110 019. E-mail:

ILA Conference

The 47th All India Library Conference will be held during 20-23 December 2001 at Warangal. The event will be hosted by Kakatiya University. The broad theme is "Best Library Practices". For details please contact the Secretary, Indian Library Association, A40-41, Flat No 201, Ansal Building, Dr Mukherjee Nagar, Delhi 110 009. E-mail:

National Conference on Information Management in e-Libraries

A conference on Information Mangement in e-Libraries [ImeL] is being organised by the Central Library, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Institute and the "Year of Books". The conference aims to provide a forum for LIS professionals to discuss and present their views, ideas and knowledge on the basic theme and sub-themes of the conference, to explore the talent of young library professionals as participants and create opportunities for knowledge sharing, knowledge updating on information creation, archiving, management and the like; to consolidate ideas on a suitable system for information management of e-libraries; to build up peer to peer professional relation and understanding amongst the participating library professionals. Original contributions based on theoretical/ research/experience/design and development work related to the theme and other areas of Library Science are invited for presentation. All papers will go through a process of review. Papers accepted and presented in the conference will be published in the Conference Proceedings. In addition to paper presentations, there will be invited talks and panel discussion on future trends, a professiona l/publisher/vendors interactive session. Last date for submission of papers: 1 November 2001. For registration please contact Mr B Sutradhar, Dy Librarian, Central Library, IIT-Kharagpur 721 302 e-mail: and for papers Mr V K Jagajeevan, Co-convenor, Asst Librarian, Central Library, IIT-Kharagpur, 721 302. (


21st Century librarians

According to a new web site promoting a campaign by the American Library Association, librarians ride Harleys, surf and skateboard. They have dreadlocks and are young and hip. There is a cook and caterer, a `popular culture junkie’ who started a hip-hop program for the Cleveland library and a "surfer dude" who owns a record company. The association’s President, John W Berry, said that in the next 12 years, nearly half of the approximately 125,000 fully qualified librarians in the country would retire. At an association conference in January, only 260 people showed up for 813 postings. Phrases like `The 21st Century Librarians’ cast the profession in a new light, with Librarians seen as `ambassadors’, `teachers’, `linguists’, `technology experts’ and `human search engines’

(New York Times 23 August 2001)

EARL wound up

The EARL Consortium for Public Library Networking in UK, which began as Project EARL [Electronic Access to Resources in Libraries], revolutionized the public library landscape by offering public libraries a web presence, as well as models for national networked services. Recently, the EARL Management Board and Partnership voted to wind up EARL and its exemplar services as of 30 September 2001, in recognition of the increasing responsibilities and developments, the public libraries are taking on at the local and regional level. Strategic partners include the Library Association, the UKOLN, the British Library, the Open University, and the Department for Culture, Media and Support.

(Info@UK Issue 6, September 2001)

Defaulter returns `Origin of Species’ after 80 years

It was reported recently that a patron at the Boston Public Library, was approached by a young woman who arrived `rather sheepishly’ in his doorway and handed him a book swathed in tissue and bubble wrap. The woman had come to return an 1859 first edition of Charles Darwin’s "On the

Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection", a book that has been missing from the library for 80 years. The typical sale price of one of the 1,250 original copies ranges from $40,000 to $50,.000, said a local rare-book expert, and at Christie’s auction house in London, a copy recently sold for almost $72,000.

In Memoriam

MALA records, with great regret, the passing away, on 22 May 2001, of Derek Austin, one of the leading `library engineers' of Britain. He was well known for the formulation of the famous and influential PRECIS indexing system. Derek has a number of friends in India, and was a prominent and active member of the Classification Research Group [CRG], London. He received many international awards for his seminal work in indexing. In 1976, he was the first person to receive the Ranganathan Award, the most prestigious recognition in information science. He was "a great British Librarian with an international impact on our way of thinking in classification and indexing."

I want you to be committed. Look at me. Even if I sleep during office hours, I only dream of the company’s future


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