On 27th December, Odisha Society of the Americas (OSA) organized a public library conference at KIIT University Auditorium in association with Prafulla Pathagar. The theme of the conference was “Transforming Public Libraries in Odisha – reaching the unreached”. Librarians and their representatives from various parts of the state attended the conference. While welcoming the guests, Mr. Lalatendu Mohanty, President OSA, briefed about the core vision of the Odisha society and explained the influence of US Libraries in their community that motivated OSA to build similar models in Odisha. The success in OSA’s first initiative of public e-library gave them enough confidence that their vision of transforming public libraries to meet the demand of the digital age can become reality in Odisha. Chief Guest, Honorable Minister Surjya Narayan Patro, emphasized the need of the libraries to embrace the internet to increase the library readership. He shared his personal stories where search engines like Google have influenced his daily activities for better. MLA Mr. Priyadarshi Mishra assured 10% funding availability towards transformation and agreed that it’s in a foundation stage while more work needs to be done. Prafulla Library President, Mr. Bansidhar Acharya, described various efforts Prafulla Library has taken to increase the readership and publishing much needed books in their 25 years of its history. The souvenir of Prafulla library was released by hon’able minister in presence of KISS chief librarian and souvenir editor Sri Robin Khandayataroy and other dignitaries.
There are various information sessions and interactive seminars involving academicians, experts, writers, thought leaders, librarians, policy maker, visiting NROs and library enthusiasts to discuss the challenges, opportunities, impact of library in the community, and potential action plans were arranged.
Joining the conference, Mr. Jagadananda said, Library should no more be just the books and magazines but a resource center where communities can get the updated information impacting them and their way of life. He also emphasized to expand the initiative to integrate with local school libraries. Mr. Nishikanta Sahoo, Chair, OSA Public Library Committee, shared a video from Country of Latvia to demonstrate the importance of library to act as a resource center changing the underdeveloped remote land to a flourishing community by embracing the integrated Communication and technology (ICT) enabled Library system. He also gave a presentation on how modern public libraries can improve the human capital index(HDI), build a knowledge based society and develop a promising economy with a well-integrated modern public library system. He explained how modern public libraries can improve the socio-economic, educational system at grass root level. He urged for faster implementation of Odisha Public Library Rules that has been long over due.
Round table conferences were held with many delegates including Prof Dr. Damodara Acharya, former Director, IIT Kharagpur, Mr. Dash Benhur, eminent writer, Mr. Manoj Kumar Mohapatra, Editor, Nitidin, Mr. Asit Mohanty, Editor Paurush, Dr. Ambika Nanda, CSR Head, Tata Steel, Mr. Santosh Chaterjee, Chief Librarian, Mahatab State Library, Prof Baman Parida, retired professor Library Science, Utkal University, Mr. Pradeep Mohanty, Ex Chief Secretary, Kerala State, Dr Shruti Mohapatra, eminent social activist shared their thoughts, answered questions from audience and agreed to be involved in this journey to transform public libraries to bring closer to the local communities.
All agreed that while we wait for government to get more involved, we need to start the ground work to include corporate sectors, students, readers, educational institutions and influential leaders in addition to changing the mindset of the community these libraries serve. They also emphasized the need to digitize many more books and shared the work being done by many institutions in this field.
Dry Ajay Mohanty, Co-Chair OSA Public Library Committee, shared the real data & experience from his current involvement with digital Indian project by Government of India. He moderated the panel discussions and agreed that this conference is an eye opener and was very optimistic about the effectiveness of this journey.
Prof. Dr Damodara Acharya mentioned how Goa govt. has allocation of funding for libraries from various taxes. In western countries, a significant portion of tax money is being allocated to education and libraries.
Sri Dash Benhur said the reading culture in the society could be improved when family members will have a reading habit.
Dr Sruti Mohapatra vouched for both school libraries and impact of public libraries for differentlyable people.
Many delegates from USA including Mrs. Nalini Patnaik, member OSA Board, Dr. Sitakantha Das, Dr. Basanta Parida, Mr. Debadutta Behera, Mr. Bibek Das, Mrs Jayashree Kar participated in the conference. They feel that the vision will be more effective to include libraries from rural schools involving the OSA members as ambassadors.
Mrs. Kuku Das, Member OSA Board, thanked everyone to make this event a success.