June 16, 2010

Library System

You hardly get to see many hollywood movies in India unless you are the sort who will buy each and every expensive DVD for one time watch or you watch movies from internet (something that we did try but couldn't enjoy). Same goes with books to a large extent!

Something I really really miss in India is availability of good public libraries.

I was a member of the British Library in Delhi but that too did not have a good collection (collection was majorly British)  though the kids books and CD collection was great. It also did not have any facility for maintaining individual account, online. There being only one branch in central Delhi and the family membership costing 3500/- per year were big deterrents for most.

Earlier we had tried a site called cinesprite which was something like netflix of US and for some months we enjoyed good quality DVDs being delivered at our home...when suddenly the company closed down and we lost all our advance payment !

I first experienced the concept of  centralised public libraries in London. I could not make very good use of it though, as the library timings were something like 10 to 5 (Sunday closed !) and with hectic office life it wasn't very viable for me.

Singapore has even better setup. A foreigner can become member in any library by paying around 45 SGD a year (for PRs and citizens it is almost free). With this, one has access to all national, public and community  libraries. They are open till 9 or 10 in the night (even on Sundays), with many having 24 hour book drops. Even if you are not a member you can walk in and read inside the premises.
I recently reserved a book, at a nominal cost and got it delivered to the library of my choice. I was informed once the book was available and was given ample time frame to collect it.
You can maintain your library account online, can drop your personal used books in library, can participate in book exchange programmes, buy books at a bargain during library books sale or be a volunteer in library. I could go on....but these are not new or great ideas...just some practical things which any good library should have....but never experienced them even in the capital of India !

If someone in India thinks of it as an enterpreneur option or it is gov. led, there may be a good business case. I know a lot of people who will really be interested in being members of good and accessible library system even if it costs a little.
I remember, around 7 years back, there was a book wala in my neighbourhood who had a good collection of magazines and books available on rent. Not sure, but I think he charged something like 10 Rs per day for novels. I read the first 6 Harry Potter books from him...even if I finish them in 7 days each (though Harry Potter fans would know that they are unputdownable and you are bound to finish them in max 3-4 days)... I still spend 420 instead of 4800 (if 420 seems to be big amount for paying in rent ...see it relative to spending 4800 or not reading at all !)

On the other hand I also know people who do not like the idea of reading a book which has exchanged many hands. e-book reader might be a good option for them to some extent. Well...as for me.. I do like to buy books, but not all are collectibles and worth the money and space !
I am not well informed about the dynamics in India...but would be great to see a centralised library system coming up in India ! Till then, as Bertram Wooster would say - Right Ho !


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