Thursday, August 21, 2008

libraries - the good, bad and ugly

These days I have been visiting some libraries in Delhi for academic work. I assumed that the JNU library would have the best collection on multiculturalism, since there are at least two academics at the Centre for Political Studies who work on that topic. Turns out I was wrong. I checked the physical catalogue and did not find many important authors.

Not only that, the services are not as great (" We are experiencing problems with JSTOR and other journal databases, should get it sorted out in 15 days", I was told when I approached an assistant about not being able to log in to online databases. To wait for 15 days is a bit too much, when you are working within a deadline."So, your log-in info is not working, the person who gave that you is coming back in 10 days, wait till then" What-the-heck? When I worked in offices, the services I provided were not suspended when I went on leave). The JNU online catalogue cannot be accessed off-site, which is such a bummer since I can't access the computers at JNU.

So, without much hope I went to Delhi University. S, the friend I had mentioned earlier in the Chandni Chowk post did his Ph.D at Delhi School of Economics and had wholeheartedly recommended it to me. What a revelation - a kind librarian who really wants to help you access and an excellent collection. I got most of the material I needed for my work and full marks to the assistants (especially the young woman, whom the older library assistant sweetly refers to as "Bacchhe") for trying hard to find the books. They even said they will get books for me from other DU libraries where I don't have access currently.

Today I went to the main arts library at DU and found some of the important texts on multiculturalism which JNU didn't seem to have. I was pleasantly surprised by the efficient service, right from the deputy librarian down to the assistants who work in the stacks. Also, the DU library catalogue can be accessed from the comfort of my home, which is a real boon since I can do the preliminary work at home.

Now my rant is reserved for the Indian Law Institute library. Last year, I had got permission for a month. But there was this kid (ok, not a kid, but a young man who gave himself airs) who loved to boss around. He just radiated bad vibes. The ILI library has been really refurbished under the current director and that deserves to applauded, but they also need to hire staff who understand that they are not gatekeepers or watchmen/women.

Proper signage within the library(DU arts library is excellent for this), information on the websites about library access, contact information of key staff, an online catalogue, how-to-get-there info (none on DU website, had to ask a friend, JNU has a map which cannot be enlarged) and most importantly helpful staff - is all this too much to ask for?

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