May 21st, 2015
Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh
Kanpur Nagar, UP—Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), in partnership with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Government of Uttar Pradesh, launched The Kanpur Nagar Digital Public Library in Kanpur Nagar of Uttar Pradesh. The Kanpur Nagar Digital Public Library is an initiative of the Kanpur Nagar District Public Library. More than 100 people including children, women and community members attended the digital launch.
Dr. Roshan Jacob, I.A.S., District Magistrate of Kanpur was the chief guest for the digital launch. Other respected dignitaries that addressed the audience included:
- Shri Shiv Pujan Patel, District Inspector of Schools, Kanpur Nagar
- Sharada Tiwari, Librarian, Rajkiya Zila Pustakalaya
- Neena Jha, Programme Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation
- Akshay Saxena, Co-Founder and President, Avanti Learning Centre
The chief guest and dignitaries initially lighted the lamp to inaugurate the launch followed by unveiling of the library logo. Dr. Jacob and Dr. Jha jointly released the library booklet. The dignitaries also launched the website of the library and the first library membership smart card was handed over to the District Magistrate, Dr. Roshan Jacobs. Dr. Jacob duly acknowledged the smart card and noted that more efforts to involve community members are required.
About Rajkiya Zila Pustakalaya
Rajkiya Zila Pustakalaya was established in 1959 and houses more than 60,000 books in the disciplines of social sciences, physics, travel, management, history, Hindi and Urdu literature, arts, religion, philosophy, home science and general knowledge. The library has created three major sections: (1) Computer Section to enable residents to obtain computer training; (2) Reading Section where residents can read and (3) Competition Section where students can prepare for competitive exams in banking and finance, mathematics, science and other fields.
With the addition of the digital aspects to the public library, a wide-range of digital services would be offered to cater to women and children, elderly, educators, school and college students and adults like:
- Jan Soochna Seva: Information about government schemes and services
- E-Commerce: Booking railway tickets online and online shopping
- Citizen services: Passport services, ration card, Voter ID card, PAN Card and gas services
- Online Payment: Online payment for telephone and electricity
- Education: Computer learning, typing and English speaking classes
- E-Health: Learning about preventive healthcare to keep families healthy
- Taxes: Filing taxes for individuals and businesses
Dr. Roshan Jacob recalled her childhood experiences and love for reading which led her to the public library where she read, attended seminars, and obtained knowledge and wisdom from poets, activists, and educators. She noted that libraries are intellectual centres and are known for providing access to information and knowledge. To encourage membership drive, Jacob called on the residents, children, college students, women, teachers and educators to become members of the library and gain from the “knowledge centre.”
Jacob said, “libraries should be accessible under democratic space for everybody. Programs should be attractive for all, like, developing career counseling for youth, digital literacy programs, summer camps and workshops. There should be lectures, debates, and group discussion where ciizens can participate.”
But more work and efforts are required to harness that strength so that more people can take advantage. While public library networks in some states are strong, other states require more efforts to build up the minimum infrastructure by white washing and painting, adding furniture, ventilation and installing ACs where people can read in comfortable temperatures and get a “pleasant experience.”
Secondly, capacity building and staff enhancement programs should also be planned, said Jacob. Staff should be trained in digital aspects of the library and online cataloguing. Coming up with community mobilizing solutions are essential by targeting programs and activities catered to women and children, elderly, and adults.
On the challenges front, Shri. Shiv Pujan Patel noted that while funds are lagging, the public library has received Rs. 20 lakh grant from the Raja Ram Mohan Roy Foundation. These funds will now be used to improve the infrastructure and maintain cleanliness.
Contributions of the Public Library
Smt. Sharada Tiwari noted the positive influence and contributions of the library on its residents. Tiwari noted about relationship between the books and the library members. This relationship and the use of library has enabled community residents to become I.A.S. officers and professionals in the community. College students and youth regularly used the library to prepare for their competitive exams in various fields. The Rajkiya Zila Pustakalaya receives regular book donations from Raja Ram Mohan Roy Foundation.
Dr. Neena Jha, Programme Director at Digital Empowerment Foundation invoked the story of Ayush Sharma, a resident of Kanpur Nagar who recently received admission at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. Felicitating youth who received digital literacy training, Dr. Jha encouraged and inspired residents and youth to take advantage of the library infrastructure for their personal, social, educational and economic development. Further to this, Dr. Jha announced a few additional programmes at the library:
- English Classes: English learning classes will now be offered as part of DEF and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation collaboration with British Council
- National Book Trust Reading Club: Free membership will be offered to borrow books
- Digital Citizenship Program: A new certified program will be offered to train residents around Digital Citizenship and internet safety
- Avanti Program: In partnership with Avanti Learning Centres, Avanti Fellows will provide classes for students preparing for admission to Indian Institute of Technology
Mr. Saxena noted that with the Avanti program students will be able to gain training and preparation at an affordable rate. And while it does not guarantee an admission in IIT, students may get in to other good colleges that are research oriented, have proper infrastructure like labs, good books and resources, and good professors who can guide students in their academic journey. He elaborated with an example. Engineering graduates are not hired and cannot find jobs because they are not certified and capable. Two-years of training will yield good results and make students capable as long as one is determined and can work hard.
Mr. Saxena said, “Internet has made information available as long as you are inquisitive and can work hard. All you have to do is aspire higher and treat the library as a school for self-study and go far in life.”
In the end, Mr. Rizwan Khan from Digital Empowerment Foundation proposed the vote of thanks and acknowledged the role of DEF in facilitating and supporting this initiative to get more people to use the library.