Libraries of the 21st century can help fight poverty and narrow the gap between rich and poor, said Vice President Hamid Ansari while inaugurating the three-day 19th National Convention on Knowledge, Library and Information Networking (NACLIN) at Tezpur University on Wednesday. “For the first time in history, perhaps, the poor have an opportunity to enhance their wealth through the creation and use of knowledge. And libraries can play a central role in this notable movement,” said Ansari at the convention organised jointly by DELNET-Developing Library Network, New Delhi and Tezpur University.
“DELNET is a major resource sharing library network connecting more than 5,600 libraries in India and eight other countries. NACLIN 2016 will discuss a large number of latest issues under the theme Smart Libraries and Inspired Librarians: Managing New Technologies, Digital Content and Service,” he said.
Ansari highlighted the role of DELNET in promoting information technology in library sector across the nation and the concept of smart library.
He further said Internet not only accelerates the pace of knowledge dissemination, but also gives rise to changing conception of knowledge, production and use.
“I am a bookworm and feel totally at home with books and matters relating to them. I can also testify to the efficiency of DELNET. A path breaking effort made in 1998 at the India International Centre Library, New Delhi,” Ansari said.
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“It is now supported by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) of our Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Ministry of Culture,” he said.
“It is relevant to remind ourselves that technology in the service of humankind has its limits,” he referred to astrophysicist Stephen Hawkins and said “our digital future may be dystopian (exact opposite) with the growth of artificial intelligence threatening very human existence.”
“Technologist Elon Musk, even as he advocates a human colony on Mars, has said the advancement of artificial intelligence can create a situation where humans become ‘house-pets’ of machines and warned that such power should be ‘broadly distributed’ and not be concentrated in the hands of a few,” Ansari added.
Stating that libraries continue to play a central role in providing open and free access to information and ideas, the Vice President said explosion of information now being produced in digital format has dramatically changed expectations about the production as well as the use of knowledge.
“By providing equitable and affordable access to knowledge and information to larger numbers in society, they can allow a larger proportion of society to participate in the knowledge driven growth,” he said.
“Social networks and social media have become more important in people’s learning strategies. Changing paradigms of knowledge production, expanding sources and modes of dissemination, faster and broader accessibility to a growing range of information – also have the ring of opportunity,” he said.
Libraries must transform and avail these opportunities to remain vital forces of knowledge dissemination in the years ahead, Ansari added.
“We are living in the information age and this implies that the main sector of economic productivity is changing from agriculture and manufacturing to creation and processing of information and knowledge”, he said.
The Vice President also pointed out that in the present context libraries have the obligation to act as equalisers.