|Image from here|
The bibliophilic readers, especially those hailing from Kerala, may be pleased to know of a recent noteworthy achievement of the State Central Library down there. The library, located in Trivandrum, houses hundreds of rare and ancient documents and books that cannot be found elsewhere. Physical access to these books has always been highly restricted and the people who were even aware of their continuing existence were equally rarely found. However, the situation is going to change for the better very soon, with an effort being underway to digitize this entire treasure trove and make the same accessible to the public. It had started quietly way back during 2006 and in the first phase, 707 rare documents (644 English and 63 Malayalam books) containing 3,28,268 pages had been digitized and stored in a digital archive. The second phase of the process had started in 2010, when 480 English books containing 1,84,321 pages had been digitized and added to the archive.
Some of the rare treasures to make their way thus into the public domain include ‘An Account of the Trade in India,’ by Kockyer Charles, dating back to 1711, scholarly books on the ancient Vedas and Islam, Travancore/Travancore-Cochin/Kerala gazettes from 1904 onwards and jewels such as ‘Righte Noble and Pleasant History of Successors of Alexander Surnamed the Great,’ (a 1569 publication) among many others.
A new three-storied Heritage Model Reference Block is also being built at an estimated cost of INR 3 crores and the entire library is being computerized, the first State Library to achieve said distinction, featuring online book reservation and renewal, Internet access for members, self check-in and check-out, and securing of books using RFID tags. Earlier only registered members of the library could access the digital archive via its local network, but at present, it can be accessed to anybody through internet.The Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, who inaugurated this achievement of the library in digitizing its reserves, has also promised all help that is needed on the part of the state government, including addressing problems of employee shortage etc.
One certainly hopes that all the other libraries across the country would soon follow suit, emulating such laudable moves to make more and more of their resources available in the public domain. In fact, several such initiatives are coming to the fore from different institutions recently, including the Digital Library of India hosted by the IISC, Bangalore, the World War I Indian Office records digitized by the British Library etc. Such efforts certainly provide a booster shot in the arm of goals like dissemination of information amongst the public, something to which the SpicyIP team is also dedicated.