Libraries vs Google : Are we really heading there ?

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Priyashree Sharma Ph

According to an article published in the newspaper daily “Naharol Gi Thoudang” paginated 03 and dated 27th July 2017, Education Minister Th Radheshyam Singh practically obliterated the importance of libraries in the schools and colleges of Manipur when he opined that libraries could be replaced by google as it provides all the required information. He said this in the light of his visits to various schools and colleges where he found battered, cobwebbed ridden rooms with little to no books on the shelves as libraries.

I don’t know whether he meant it ironically and took the route of a sarcastic jibe or he actually meant it in its entirety and thinks google can actually replace libraries. Honestly, if it’s the former then kudos to his witty remark but if it’s the latter then brace yourselves younglings because the very person responsible for your education thinks google is this all-encompassing knowledge bubble where all the information in the world resides never mind the fact that is not how google works.

It is a little startling that a Minister given the portfolio of Education would betray the very shrine of books by downplaying its importance.

What irks me the most is that the solution sought for unkempt, disarrayed libraries is not an official direction from the Ministry for better upkeep and proper maintenance but a thoughtless remark of resorting to google as the source of ultimate information. If google provided all the information then why are there still major libraries thriving throughout the world? Granted the libraries in Manipur do need modernisation and/or computerisation for better functioning albeit some major changes but in my opinion, for a library to run with efficiency a constant flow of funding is required without which it would be hard to function in this ever changing socio-economic equilibrium and the Government should play an important role in keeping the libraries updated.

I consider myself privileged as I was fortunate enough to experience my college level education in one of the few metropolitan cities of India. I do not come from an extremely poor family and I could afford to buy my own standard books throughout my Professional Degree but that is not to say that I never needed to use my college library. There were many instances in my 5 years of Law School where I had to slump in the library trying to finish deadlines because I knew I could not afford to buy various books on the same topic by different authors. The reference materials which cost thousands of rupees and sometime hundreds of dollars were simply out of my budget. It was only because my college had a massive collection of books and reference materials that I was able to conduct thorough and proper research for my moots or my projects.

Truth be told, I don’t think I would ever have been able to read a Harvard Law Review without the facilities of my college library as they are massively expensive, also one simply cannot access these on Google considering they are copyright protected.

I cannot deny how useful google is and I do acknowledge that it does provide information but when a student needs to write a paper on a certain topic or needs analytical or thorough research for a project, one cannot find all the information on google. Yes, google does give a certain direction as to ‘where to look for the information’ but it will not provide an individual with that information due to copyright restraints. It may show snippets of the topic written by a certain author but definitely not the entire content, so if a person cannot afford to purchase the said book then what would be the next step? It obviously would be logical to go to a library and look for the book. Also, during a research a student sometimes only need a single chapter for reference from a particular book, without an access to a proper library, where would the student go? Google? Probably to try their luck but will they find the required information? I doubt it. In fact the student would have to eventually end up going to a bigger and better library.

I don’t really want to drag on and on but I do not think that every student studying in the schools and colleges of Manipur have access to internet or smart phones, but I stand corrected.

A Library is a space, a safe space for everyone who loves to read or learn or research. A good library is needed now more than ever in this generation where social media, memes, online gaming et al is taking over. A proper library creates a healthy relationship between the students and information. A shabby and dodgy library would naturally repulse anyone. No one wants to go read or think or acclimatize in a dingy, dirty and dilapidated space. Therefore, a proper library with properly trained librarians with proper degrees should be hired. The better a librarian is at the job, the number of people accessing the library would escalate.

I really didn’t want to amplify the statement made by our Hon’ble Education Minister, but as a citizen of this state, I just could not turn a blind eye towards that awful statement. I have not written this dissenting article to insult or defame anyone, and I am aware that some of you may or may not agree with my point of view but I do hope that most of you end up absorbing the point I am trying to get across.

I think Libraries are a necessity, they have always been a necessity and they will always remain a necessity no matter the technological advancement.

Source: The Sangai Express

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