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The public library system in India: challenges and opportunities

Maitrayee Ghosh (Sardar Patel College of Engineering, University of Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 April 2005



The current situation of Indian public libraries has been viewed by some as follows: the public library system in India is condemned to remain peripheral to the actual information needs of the masses; that it is in a depressed state, and serves as little more than a warehouse of recreational reading materials, a majority of which are in regional languages. This paper suggests possible remedies on how to transform the situation, and details new technological developments which are already showing the potential to change public libraries in rural India for the better.


A descriptive account of the contemporary situation in India with regard to public libraries, digital technologies and development possibilities, using official statistics and the LIS literature.


The challenges that face public libraries in India are listed and a vision for their future based on the concept of “ICT for development” is sketched out.

Research limitations/implications

It is difficult to get an overall view of this topic: authorized statistics on public libraries in India as a whole are not collected, because these libraries are the responsibility of a variety of agencies who, for various reasons, never disclose such information on a national scale.

Practical implications

The author details new technological developments, the practical outcome of which would in particular facilitate the establishment of digital library services in rural India.


This paper provides a useful overview of a library scenario on which aggregated statistical data is hard to find; and, from this summary of the present situation, goes on to suggest possible ways to transform the “digital divide” into “digital opportunities”.



Ghosh, M. (2005), "The public library system in India: challenges and opportunities", Library Review, Vol. 54 No. 3, pp. 180-191.



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