IIT-Kgp page-turner: Free library of 65 lakh books (and counting)

Times of India 3rd Apr 2017

IIT-Kgp page-turner: Free library of 65 lakh books (and counting)

If you own a smartphone, you probably have a tonne of apps for work and play. Now, IIT Kharagpur has developed an app that will bring the world’s knowledge at your fingertips. The country’s premier tech institute has launched a mobile app that brings as many as 65 lakh books, journals, periodicals and research materials — not just to students, but to anyone who has a smartphone.

The ministry of human resources development had entrusted IIT-Kgp with the ambitious project of setting up the National Digital Library (NDL), currently the country’s largest library repository. NDL started as a pilot project in April 2015. From a humble beginning through a PC to demonstrate the proof of concept, it is now on its way to becoming a full-blown digital library and generating a movement of making educational contents available to the entire nation at its fingertips. The library is inclusive and open for use by anybody who registers, completely free of cost.

As of now, the app is just meant for Android users, though an iPhone version is coming soon. Launched a month ago, the app has already been downloaded 1,00,000 times from Google’s Play Store and has received a lot of encouraging comments and suggestions from users.

Some significant contents available on the repository are NCERT textbooks, textbooks of eight state education boards, JEE, GATE and UPSC question papers, NPTEL and spoken tutorials, papers/theses from IISc, ISI, 9 IITs, two IIMs and three IISERs, publications from eight laboratories of CSIR, publications from two laboratories of ICAR and Krishikosh, IEEE, PubMed, LibriVox (audio books), South Asia Archive, World e-Book Library, OECD, INFLIBNET, Satyajit Ray Society and many more.

NDL has also collaborated with Europeana (The Umbrella Library of Europe for Culture & Museum). There was an initiative called Digital Library of India, which was started more than 12 years back with a charter to digitize one million rights-free books and make them available. This has also been integrated in NDL.

“NDL has launched its Android app and is on its way to launch an app for Apple soon,” said Partha Pratim Das, a senior faculty member and co-ordinator for the NDL app project. Schools and colleges can go for institutional registration, wherein a nominated person of the institution, called ‘Institutional Nodal Person’ can collect the details of students, teachers and non-teaching staff of the institution and get them registered in bulk on the web client, ndl.iitkgp.ac.in. On approval of the application by the NDL team, the institutional nodal person shall get e-mail intimation. The institutional nodal person can then register students, teachers and non-teaching staff of the institution, Das explained.

The repository can be accessed from anywhere in the world through the app or web versions. The app has features to search, browse, filter, tag, comment and view metadata. The desktop/laptop version — which already has 9 lakh users — is also enabled with an ‘Advanced Search’ feature.

“With the exponential growth in mobile usage, the NDL app will enable access to rich digital content of libraries across the country and even foreign repositories to users even in the remotest of areas, which is unique not just in the Indian, but also in the global context. The world has never seen a digital repository like NDL, which is focused on education,” said P P Chakraborty, director of the institute. “NDL integrates contents of any domain as long as the content has some learning value to somebody. The NDL team is also conducting a lot of cutting-edge research in natural language processing, machine learning, search technologies, metadata engineering, experience tracking and data analytics to provide state-of-the-art facilities to users,” he added.

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