Library Network: Library networking is an arrangement or a structure that links a group of libraries which have agreed to work together and / or share their resources in an organized basis to a certain degree. It can be defined as a “two or more libraries engaged in a common pattern of information exchange through communication for some functional purposes”. It is meant to promote and facilitate sharing of resources available within a group of participating libraries.
a) Definition: The National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) in its National Programme Document (1975) defines a network as: “two or more libraries and/or other organizations engaged in a common pattern of information exchange, through communications, for some functional purpose. A network usually consists of a formal arrangement whereby materials, information and services provided by a variety of libraries and other organizations are available to all potential users. Libraries may be in different jurisdictions but they agree to serve one another on the same basis as each serves its own constituents. Computer and telecommunications may be among the tools used for facilitating communication among them”.
b) Precondition for Networking: The agreements between library authorities of different libraries, building or developing required infrastructure, maintenance of standardization in terms of classification schemes, cataloguing schemes, uses of some common library management software and so on are some of the preconditions before developing any kind of network. Some other preconditions are
i) Automation of the Member Library: For the success of network in the long run, each of the member libraries must have a policy to automate every function of the library – acquisition, cataloguing, classification, serials control, circulation, SDI, current awareness services, etc. – in the shortest possible time. This helps the library to have a computer environment which is required to design, develop, maintain and to operate several databases, to reduce the cost of library operations as well as network operations.
ii) Hardware and Software: The network should be able to recommend to participating libraries the type of hardware and software they need for their in-house functions and for networking purposes. Hardware should be selected considering the number of entries the participating libraries can generate within the next 3-5 years.
iii) Trained Manpower: If there is no adequate trained manpower in each of the member libraries, attempts should be made to train or/and recruit new skilled library personnel.
iv) Standardization: For the purpose of creating databases, it is essential to agree upon a standard. All libraries should follow a standard MARC format, AACR-II, a standard thesaurus like Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), etc. uniformly. Although efforts should be made to have one classification scheme for all participating libraries yet the use of different numbers should not become a hurdle as search requests are mostly about authors, titles, editors and subject descriptions.
Besides the above, it is preferable to have certain communication facilities such as Fax, Telex, Telephone, etc. as a part of the network system in each of the member libraries for the effective working of the network. E-mail and internet facilities should be available with the libraries and they should be able to access international databases, preferably individually or through the network host to begin with.
c) Advantages of Networking: The advantages of library networking are as follows:
i) Cooperative Collection Development: In the age of information explosion no individual library, however resourceful, can be self-sufficient in terms of documents. For a library, however rich it may be impossible to acquire and store all the documents within its four walls. Networking will help to develop collection in terms of books, periodicals, patents, standards, audio visual, CDs, etc. and share those resources.
ii) Meets Specialized User Demand: User needs are varied and diversified. To meet the specialized need one has to approach such special collection or special service that are available in special libraries. Networking will help in the sharing of experience and expertise of the library personnel.
iii) Breaks Financial Constraint: The library budgets are decreasing. With the provision of library networking a library can arrange for cooperative staff training, can exchange the staff for performing some technical works. Sharing of the finance for cooperative acquisition and collection development, processing, etc, can also be made.
iv) Reduces Unnecessary Duplication of Work: The networking will remove the efforts in duplication of classification, cataloguing, and such others.
v) Barrier Breaker: Library networking is needed to break the barriers of distance and time. Further, it will reduce the physical movement of materials.
vi) Sharing of Hardware Resources: Expensive computer equipment, microfilming equipment, digitizing devices for newspaper, reprographic systems, etc. can be procured by a networking group for the benefit of all the libraries of the network. Networking is also needed to connect personal computer with the mainframe or super computer for problem solving.
vii) Sharing of Software Resources: The software that is too expensive to procure by individual libraries can be procured and shared by the network for solving larger programmes, information retrieval, and so on. The software can be installed in the central computer and all other computers can be used as client.
viii) Development of Union Catalogue: Network helps in developing union catalogue to refer the user to the documents in any of the other participating libraries and it can be consulted by the user in order to know which document is available in which library. For example, Union Catalogue of Social Science Serials was compiled and published by the NASSDOC (ICSSR), New Delhi in 1980s.
ix) Development of Database: Library network helps in developing special database to meet some special need by the participatory libraries. Again, through networking the local information which is available over the network can be controlled locally that satisfies the accuracy. For example, National Union Catalogue of Scientific Serial in India (1988) was the result of the work of INSDOC in collaboration with several scientific libraries all over India.
x) Document Delivery Service (DDS): Networks enable librarians, faced with clients’ information needs beyond their local resources, to identify and obtain materials and services for those clients. The interlibrary loan, Document Delivery Service (DDS) provides the user the required documents irrespective of its location.
xi) Humanware: Manpower training and refresher course facilities – stimulating, promoting and coordinating research and training programme for library staff- can be arranged by the network members.
d) Development of Library Network in India: At international level Joint Academic NETwork (JANET), Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC), etc. are functioning properly. The examples of library networks in the western countries suggest that all networks based on a fee structure can be maintained without grant and are viable in the long run.
NICNET, established by National Informatics Centre (NIC) in 1977 was started in the late 1987’s. It is one of the largest VSAT Networks of its kind in the world. It was launched basically for getting and providing information from/to district levels to facilitate planning process. It links for regional nodes at Delhi, Pune, Bhubneswar and Hyderabad and has established 32 nodes at state and union territory levels and 439 nodes at district headquarters.
At national level INDONET is India’s first data communication and computer network that was started in March 1986 by CMC Ltd. It was launched as a solution to the growing need for providing timely, well processed data to various institutions. In the First phase, they have mainly network in Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai. Later, Delhi and Hyderabad were also linked as additional stations. INDONET presently has an international gateway which provides access to the world wide pocket switched networks like USA’s Global Networks Systems (GNS) and Internet.
Education and Research Network (ERNET) <http://www.eis.ernet.in/> was launched by the Department of Education (DOE), Govt. of India in late 1986 with financial assistance from United Nationals Development Programme (UNDP) to provide academic and research institutions with electronic mail facilities. It is currently used by DSIR Labs, research centres and academic institutions.
Scientific and Industrial Research Network (SIRNET) was established by INSDOC in late 1989 to interconnect all the CSIR laboratories and other R&D institutions in India.
The success of the above networks and the initiatives taken by NISSAT, UGC, Planning Commission and other departments of Govt. of India have led to the establishment and development of library networks in India.
CALIBNET was established by NISSAT in 1986 in Calcutta. It was the first library network visualized. At present, it has become the centre for CD-ROM databases which are acquired from outside sources. DELNET was established in 1988 in Delhi by India International Centre with the initial financial support of NISSAT. It is the first operational library network in India. INFLIBNET was established by UGC in 1988 and its operations began in 1991. It is a network of university and college libraries. MALIBNET is the result of the need for interconnecting libraries and information centres in Chennai, which was visualized by INSDOC in 1991. INSDOC undertook a feasibility study which was completed in March 1992. MALIBNET was registered as a society in Chennai in Feb. 1993. Some other library networks in India are PUNENET (1992) in Pune, ADINET (1993) in Ahmedabad, BONET (1994) in Mumbai, MYLIBNET (1994) in Mysore (Chennai), and BALNET (1995) in Bangalore.
e) Let Us Sum Up: According to Allen Kent "the success and survival of libraries will much depend on how much and to what extent the libraries cooperate with each other in future". Further, tremendous explosion of information, financial constraints, information in different forms, etc., compelling the libraries to form network and consortia is an essential facet of modern library practices.
In library network the particular focus is forming online networks by using computers and linking members to the computer resources by means of telecommunication connections. When a group of libraries using computers decide to exchange information, a network is developed.
The library network deals with the development of software for library automation, automation of the member libraries, retro-conversion of records, cooperative acquisition, creating union catalogue, development of database of the holdings in member libraries, conducting training, workshops and seminar, providing DDS, Email, CD-ROM, internet access facilities. It also provides reference service, referral service, and provides technical support to member institutions in the selection of hardware, software, and technical problem faced by the member libraries. But till now except DELNET and INFLIBNET, most of the other library networks have yet to develop databases of library holdings in a significant way. Even these two networks have to go a long way to cover in their databases the entire holdings of all the participating libraries. Unless this is achieved, the networks would not be able to achieve significant resource sharing as well as rationalization in library acquisitions.