Cyber Library in BHU: Empowered by Innovation

USAID funded Agricultural Innovation Partnership enables university librarian spearhead the effort to improve education delivery

On 03 March 2013, Dr. Karan Singh, Chancellor and Dr. Lalji Singh, Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) inaugurated the Cyber Library Study Center in the university campus. For the first time in India, a central university gave itself a centrally air conditioned digital library that operates for 24 hours, has automatic power back-up and can accommodate 250 students at a time.

The man who helped establish the cyber library, Dr Ajay Kumar Srivastava, was trained at Cornell University, organized by Agricultural Innovation Partnership, a USAID funded project. Dr Srivastava says, “We wanted to upgrade the library systems at BHU since last few years to meet the needs of the 21st century learners. However, we did not have the plan in place to take it forward.

It took the university library staff several years to plan a hi-tech library that could support a large number of students for 24 hours. Dr. Srivastava says, “We began our journey towards planning to set up a cyber library at a time when we collaborated with Cornell University, USA under the Agricultural Innovation Partnership. This has been a very fruitful journey with great learning experiences. The project of establishing a digital library was critical, especially because it would be a unique set-up, perhaps the first in the entire region. The collaboration proved to be a success since we achieved a lot in a short span of time.
Dr. Srivastava underwent training in library improvement and information literacy. The training he undertook at Cornell helped him create a detailed plan and seek the necessary infrastructural funding from the University.

Mr. Sudershan Mishra, a first year student at the Institute of Agricultural Sciences, BHU says, “Today, the BHU Central library is a state-of-the-art information hub and the heart of the University. It has quickly become an excellent space that houses computers and digital resources – databases, web-based tools, e-books, e-readers, applications and social media. Apart from books, these are perhaps the core components needed to develop successful 21st-century learners and facilitate cutting-edge research.

Today, students who cannot afford computers and are constantly hampered by long power cuts can fully utilize enormous digital resources for twenty-four hours in an engaging environment. The facility is proving to be very useful for especially poor students, most of who hail from backward areas and cannot afford to buy a laptop. While each workstation has been provided with a cubicle, the facility also provides a separate area for those using their laptops.

Owing to the initial success of the cyber library, the university expanded its capacity with nearly 500 workstations and 455 computers in July 2014. Today, the library provides access to over 14,000 journals and other materials to the students and it is accessible 24×7 without any charges being imposed on them.

Over the years, AIP partners Cornell University and Sathguru Management Consultants have assisted the university in improving library systems by conducting several trainings and workshops. These efforts have germinated in the form of digitized library, which provides online real time access to knowledge resources and has created a knowledge rich environment with the library as the central repository of knowledge resource for online real time access by students. AIP has helped create online resources, information hubs, web-based tools and applications that have transformed education delivery and has benefitted the students, researchers and faculty alike.

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