Wednesday, 19 May, 2021

Books At One’s Fingertips

Dr. Kundan Aryal


In a country, where the people including the prominent educationists were punished for trying to open a library in the capital nine decades ago, the resources of a library are now accessible even in remote areas. The oldest and largest first-ranked higher educational institution has distributed at least 160 thousand User IDs and around 25 thousand individuals are using this facility.
For the last six months, Tribhuvan University Central Library (TUCL) has been offering more than 450 thousand books, above five million thesis dissertations of different academic levels and thousands of reputed journals and academic essays through the E-book central of the ProQuest database on the basis of the institutional and individual membership. The university has been provided the access to ProQuest Ebook Central as a key eBook provider. The treasury of knowledge is available on a variety of range of screens, from a 2-inch mobile phone to a laptop screen which generally ranges from 11.6 to 17 inches. Thus it is ubiquitous and the students and scholars can exploit the facility available at TU Central Library. However, the resources have been underutilised.

Public libraries
An incident that explains the agony of the then regime against knowledge and education has been repeatedly mentioned in the class rooms of history in Nepal. In 1930, when a group of youths, including renowned literary figure and educationist Laxmi Prasad Devkota sought permission to establish a public library in Kathmandu, they were charged with sedition. Some of them were released after paying Rs. 100 in fine and some of them were jailed for a longer period. As Kamal Prakash Malla states, in his famous essay entitled ‘the Intellectual in Nepali Society’ published in 1970, the post-1950 decade in Nepal is characterised by a sense of release and emancipation of the intellect from an unprecedented expansion of intellectual and cultural opportunities. He holds that the Nepali intelligentsia woke up one fine morning from the sleep of the Middle Ages and found them exposed to the neon lights of an electric age.
In the aftermath of the socio-political changes of 1950, several public libraries were established across the country. TUCL was also established in 1959 as an integral part of TU. Began with a collection of merely 1,200 books, now it contains over 350,000 academic books. The volumes of periodicals grew to 25000 and over 450 titles of periodicals are being received every year on a subscription or as free copies. The library is obliged to several great educationists, philanthropists and bibliophiles for their contribution to it. The TUCL is undoubtedly the country’s largest library in terms of space, collection and the number of memberships issued.
The central library has been extending services to users in remote places through ProQuest database software. Apart from the reference books, journal, essays for different streams available through ProQuest EBook Central, there are resources provided by the Development Bank and National Digital Library of India. The e-resources of the Indian digital library contains 40 million titles including journals and audio-visual materials. The TU has ensured that the providers are committed to offering a fully accessible experience for research, teaching and learning.
ProQuest's platforms including EBook Central is continually designed and developed to meet the current demands of digital contents. TU selected it to provide authoritative eBooks in a range of subjects from the world's top publishers. TUCL's website provides an easy gateway to hassle-free access to EBook Central. The platform is convenient and quick to find relevant eBooks and chapters. It also offers options such as reading online or highlighting the text and taking notes. The contents available here are trustworthy because the sources are credible, authoritative and scholarly. Hence, TUCL is the gateway to access EBook Central which delivers, with breadth and depth of eBooks from scholarly sources, including University Presses and other top publishers.
Towards the end 2020 when pandemic hit the country, TUCL started the remote access service for its users. Bijay Sharma, an information official at TUCL, expresses a sense of accomplishment that TU demonstrated an example of transforming the challenge into an opportunity by this step. Several colleges affiliated with TU and universities such as Nepal Open University has been utilising the facility. Even though, as it was perceived, the number of users should be increased. There is a general observation that the faculties and students from the younger generation are fond of digital materials rather than printed books. This shift that surfaced in the reading culture needs to be reflected in the case of the e-resources available at TU Central Library.

Intellectual horizon
Professor Abhi Subedi recalls his early days in the university that how the libraries made a great difference in his life. He views that what he is today is the outcome of his habit of visiting libraries. He suggests all the students develop the habit of visiting libraries. According to him, such a habit broadens one's intellectual horizon and also helps one's career. A visit to library everyone and motivates all to be good citizens. His message is that students must read a lot of books to get proper knowledge. During his young age, the books were available in printed form. Now, the digital form of books is more popular. Hence, the students and the faculties, at least from TU, of this generation as per their interest and convenient, let not the treasury of knowledge in digital format be underutilised.
TUCL at its website cites Carlyle, an American scholar, who says the essence of a library is the collection. Since the library has a good collection it is worthy to cite a great book-lover. However, it is equally important to let people know about the convenience of using the e-resources from remote. At least TU scholars, faculties and students need to come up with enthusiasm to find authoritative eBooks at their fingertips. Here, just signing in is sufficient to use authoritative eBooks.

(Dr. Aryal is associated with the Central Department of Journalism and Mass Communication of Tribhuvan University.)