Information literacy and public libraries in India
Das, Anup Kumar and Lal, Banwari (2006) Information literacy and public libraries in India.
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After Independence, India has experienced growing population of literate and educated citizens due to various efforts in universalisation of elementary education through programmes like, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), District Primary Education Programme (DPEP), National Literacy Mission and so on. On the other hand, for the facilitating educated citizens with the adequate documentary and knowledge resources, government and other agencies have established public libraries. The community information centres and village knowledge centres are the recent additions to this effort that would transform India into an information society, where information and knowledge resources are considered as critical ingredient for development. But problem is with the effective and efficient use, consumption and evaluation of information resources, so that informed citizen can take right decisions. Here information literacy can play a vital role in educating the users of libraries on various information and documentary resources, where to start searching of information, what where and how to access them, how to assess and compare retrieved information, how to communicate their information or findings to the general masses and experts, and so on. In addition to borrow books for entertainment and leisure, public libraries can also disseminate information on community development, best practices, literature, culture, trade, education, etc. which may be further elaborated when needs arise. Information seekers may want consolidated or exhaustive information. To provide right information to the users, public librarians should be trained to develop information literacy competency and should able to educate the user that will make user information literate. Information literacy competency ensures maximum utilization of the information resources as well as optimization of information handling capabilities. Many libraries and information systems introduce user orientation programmes to educate users on the salient features of information resources, search techniques, search strategies, scholarly communications and other aspects. In India a number of training programmes are conducted by the different agencies, who are also architects of modern information systems, to the end-users. For example, INFLIBNET conducts workshops on information resources in Infonet e-journal consortium. NISCAIR conducts workshops on information resources in CSIR e-journal consortium. National Informatics Centre conducts training programmes on ‘biomedical information retrieval’ covering Indian Medlars Centre’s resources like, IndMED, medIND, OpenMED and UNcat. All these training programmes meant to develop information literacy competencies of the end users. Similarly, public library authorities and public librarians should impart information literacy competencies to the public library users. The importance of public libraries would be felt more strongly, if the public libraries attract common citizens and younger generations and public librarians meet the information needs of all users.
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