Digitization and digital libraries are the present buzz words in the LIS profession in India. It is the ‘in’ thing of today just as thirty years ago all librarians only spoke of automating the library activities. This paper will describe some major digital library initiatives in India in different LIS sectors. The Digital divide within the LIS scenario due to diverse situations will be highlighted in the paper. Most of the present initiatives are in the area of Science and Technology, in the Government sector, and in Institutions of advanced research. Most of these efforts are project based which make them very vulnerable to changes in government policies, technological changes, economic support and socio-educational changes. The need for trained personnel to undertake the new responsibilities is also a major issue. Since there is no holistic policy regarding digital content generation, management of digital libraries, standards and services, most of these efforts are isolated ventures generally restricted only to the needs of a special group of users. As most of them are started by getting a one time grant without a follow up plan, sustainability is always in doubt. Also preservation of digital data is often not focused with the seriousness that it deserves. Digitization of India’s vast and rich collections for access and preservation will need very special attention from many quarters. Sustaining the present efforts and continuing these activities in all the LIS sectors will need special efforts by the decision makers, librarians and the Information Industry. Sustainability of digital libraries in India will need continuous technical and economic support. The influence of social and educational sectors and awareness at the grass root levels will be significant in sustaining digitization initiatives and digital libraries. Manpower development is a necessary factor in continuing service-oriented access through digital libraries. However, the most important factor remains the political will of the government and the sustained well informed interest of the decision makers and the library professionals. 2
India has been the cradle of knowledge for thousands of years. Today there is a felt need to preserve and propagate indigenous knowledge and culture alongside the acceptance of universal knowledge through globalization in this age of technological developments. The IT oriented environment has brought in opportunities of a revolutionary nature in archiving and accessing knowledge in the digitized form which were known to exist in conventional libraries mainly in the print form. India has undertaken many initiatives to digitize its documented knowledge base and set up digital libraries for better access to its diverse clientele. However, these initiatives are seen to be sporadic and projects with one time funding. India needs well planned and policy based digitization efforts to be effective in the present situation of acute digital divide between the urban educated techno savvy minority and the vast majority who are not so fortunate. Only when the fruits of digitization of available information/documents reach the people through digital libraries, information centers and similar agencies can we consider ourselves true beneficiaries of technological advancements.
India’s Digitization Initiatives
Digitization has become the buzz word in every field of information generation, processing, preservation and access. There are many prestigious nationally and internationally funded activities which are being undertaken simultaneously by many institutions and agencies. Some of these are mentioned as follows: • The National Science Foundation of the USA has initiated the “million book project” at Carnegie Mellon University in USA, with India as partner. The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore is the focal point of this activity in India. The project is an international cooperative attempt to digitize a million seminal...