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International Conference on Future Libraries: penldisc2


Panel Discussion 2
Transforming Public Libraries for Socio Economic Development

Date: 28th February 2019                                                             Time: 02.00 PM - 03.00 PM                                                                                  Duration: 1 Hour

Dr. Akhtar Parvez
University Librarian
Maulana Azad National Urdu University

Mr. Rajendrakumar P Y
Former Director General,
National Library of India

Dr. S. Kamatchi
Librarian and Information Officer,
Anna Centenary Library

Dr. Basheerhamad Shadrach
Asia Coordinator,
World Wide Web Foundation

Mr. P Jayarajan,
Retired in 2003 as Head of the
British Council Libraries in India

Concept Note for the Panel Debate

Public libraries are a lifeline for literacy, citizenry, public services, preservation of culture and equitable access to public information services.  Traditionally their role in India is limited to recreational reading and preservation of rare materials. Severely starved of financial resources, expertise, infrastructure and services, these stare at an impending extinction. The reason for including the theme on Public libraries in this conference is to have an inclusive narrative on their role, revival, and transformation and intersecting perspectives to spur the prospect of collaboration between academic and public libraries. There is a huge public demand for resources by the public, and it remains untapped by these systems.

The Indian Public Library Movement funded by NASSCOM and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has campaigned tirelessly for more than five years to revive them and laments about the lack of engagement of the resources with the community and the surrounding ecosystem in understanding the evolution of new role as knowledge partner in contemporary times.  While   RRRLF, which is the nodal agency of the government of India to support public library services and systems, has been unable to support public as well as private libraries due to lack of cooperation from various Indian states. RRRLF supports approximately 34,000 out of the 70,000 public libraries in India under its various schemes.

There are movements and missions by private players such as Just Books and Pratham Books.

Pratham Books: is championing the joy of reading among children by launching story weaver, the digital library of free children stories, etc. They also launched ‘donate a book’ campaign to help build libraries for children who need them in the mother tongue.  The other interesting initiative of Pratham Books is ‘Library-in-a-Classroom’ which is a portable wall-mounted library of up to 120 storybooks in multiple Indian languages that can be found in classrooms, large and small, across India.

JustBooks: Solutions Pvt Ltd is a chain of rental libraries in India modeled on franchising. The company was founded at the NSRCEL incubator at IIM Bangalore and was formerly known by Strata Retail and Technology Services Pvt. Ltd. Initially operating in Bangalore, it has franchises in major cities across the country In December 2016, the company raised ₹15 crore (US$2 million) from CoCreate Ventures and was rebranded as JustBooks Solutions Pvt Ltd. It has expanded its operations to Chennai, Kochi, Visakhapatnam, Mangalore, Nagpur, Mumbai and Pune.

The objective of holding a panel discussion on the theme ‘Transforming Public Libraries for Socio-Economic Development’ is to discuss and debate the development of public libraries in India, legislation relating to public libraries, recent initiatives undertaken to promote the cause of public libraries, role of NASSCOM and the Indian Public Library Movement in setting-up and funding of public libraries, and so on.  The discussion is aimed at sensitizing various stakeholders viz., public authorities, NGOs and Indian citizens, to the need of development of public libraries that can not only lead to community capacity building but also enhanced quality of life for the whole society. This will have a significant impact on the socio-economic development of any nation.

Duration of the Panel Discussion would be 75 minutes. The panel consists of five experts representing public libraries in India, the Indian Public Library Movement NGOs involved in advocating reading habits among the young generation. Moderator of the discussion will introduce all the panelists and set the tone for the discussion. Each expert panelist will share experiences with the audience for 7-8 minutes and respond to the concerns that may be raised by the moderator. The audience will have about 10 minutes for interactions.