In what can be seen as a sign of the times to come, when social distancing may just become the new normal, the University of Calcutta has placed the entire digital collection of its library online so that physical visits are no longer necessitated and the world at large benefits from it.
The decision of the University, set up in 1857, has placed in public domain countless articles, journals and dissertations, including issues of The Calcutta Review dating back to 1844 and Tagore Law Lectures dating back to 1870. Now anybody, anywhere in the world, can access them any time.
“We are living through a time of great uncertainty, owing to the global coronavirus pandemic. To cope with regulations of social distancing and lockdown, our teachers have initiated online teaching. They have also been regularly uploading study materials on the university website. In this spirit of online education, the university has also decided to open up free access to its digital collections. These would be accessible through the university website, www.culibrary.ac.in,” Vice-Chancellor Sonali Chakravarti Banerjee said in a circular.
Two major reasons
“There are two major reasons underlying our decision. The first is our responsibility to our students and our faculty, whose education and research have been obstructed by the prohibition on physical access to the library collections.
“The second is our responsibility, as a public institution, to the citizenry as well as the world at large,” Ms. Chakravarti Banerjee said.
“Education is a public good; and the necessity and value of academic research increases, more than ever, if our society is to recover from the crisis.
“As a public university, we feel that it is our responsibility to make our digital collections part of a global academic commons, to facilitate the pursuit of knowledge beyond borders,” she said.
Till now, the library facilities and resources, including digital collections, were primarily accessible to users within the university campus.
Now, the digitised collection of full-text materials has been made accessible for free reading — from any part of the world.
“The University of Calcutta feels honoured to contribute to the communing of cultural-educational resources; and thus to strengthen the global networks of cooperation and solidarity through which alone we shall be able to recover as a planetary community,” the Vice-Chancellor said.
According to a senior university official, this decision to make the library’s digital content public, even though prompted by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, would, in all probability, continue to hold good even after the lockdown is lifted.