A parliamentary committee expressed concern about the decline in membership at the Delhi Public Library and suggested that the government create a virtual library through large-scale text digitization. According to the 328th report of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism, and Culture, ‘Action Taken by the Government on the Recommendations/Observations of the Committee contained in its 310th report on the subject Functioning of Central Libraries in the Country,’ the Delhi Public Library has seen a decrease in membership in recent times, with the COVID-19 pandemic being one of the reasons.
“It has come down to 1.5 lakh membership from what it was prior to coronavirus period i.e. 1.85 lakh. Being a model library created in 1951 in Asia with UNESCO’s technical, financial assistance, it should lead other libraries in country and extend all possible help in their growth. Delhi Public Library should make all out efforts to increase its membership/viewership in the interest of general public,” according to the report.
In their response, the Ministry of Culture acknowledged that there has been a “perceptible decline” in the membership of the Delhi Public Library (DPL) over the last two years. “This was mainly due to the Covid situation and also absence of reading habit among the society. However, Delhi Public Library has been striving to increase its membership by conducting outreach activities, approaching schools/ colleges/ RWAs, distributing membership forms and waiving of membership fee,” the ministry said.
The Committee also proposed that the Indian public library system be changed while keeping current advancements in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in mind, in order to provide minimum network-based services to the urban and rural populations. Libraries should be created as Community Information Centre models, and computerization of libraries should be implemented quickly to improve them, according to the report.
In their reply, the culture ministry stated that it has already built the Indian Culture Portal, where knowledge and cultural resources from diverse Ministry of Culture institutions are now available in the public domain on a single platform. “This project is part of the Prime Minister’s Digital India initiative to showcase information about India’s rich tangible and intangible cultural heritage both at home and abroad,” according to the ministry.
This portal contains documents, photographs, audio-visual files, and other data from archives, museums, academies, and libraries throughout the country. It contains around 2.5 lakh digital artefacts with metadata. It also has around 9 lakh bibliographic entries. The content is divided into 19 categories, including rare books, e-books, archives, paintings, and union catalogues, among others.
It also contains nine content categories, including stories, snippets, historical cities, and forts. Currently, the portal is available in English and Hindi. It is accessible via the Indian Culture App, which is available for both Android and iPhone.