Books available online

21st century world gives access to editions from comfort of home, in just a few clicks of the keyboard
By Lyudmila Semenova

Belarusians can already access a wide range of literature from home, saving time spent at libraries locating specific editions. The latest databases allow books to be catalogued easily and stored electronically, making them available online to all. Meanwhile, traditional libraries are undergoing change.

According to the Yakub Kolas Central Scientific Library of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, more than 90 percent of young people consider reading vital. Modern readers are using electronic editions more often with each passing year, paying fewer visits to libraries, having realised the advantages of online access: convenience in locating books, compact storage and time saving. Fewer readers are dropping into libraries, despite there being more than 3,500 public libraries operational; of these, about 58 percent are computerised, and more than 45 percent have access to the Internet. Of course, there is some way to go but our libraries are looking to the future, using digital technologies to their advantage — rather than seeing them as a ‘toll of doom’.

Natalia Berezkina, the Director of the Yakub Kolas Central Scientific Library, tells us, “We offer a system of electronic delivery of documents, and a virtual referral service, as well as virtual exhibitions and an electronic archive of NAS editions.” Few people realise the potential that digital services open up.

Virtual referrals, like electronic catalogues, are being offered by many modern libraries, allowing requests to be placed remotely; librarians can also make suggestions of interest and give a bibliographic description of documents. Meanwhile, a virtual reading room allows you to read library texts remotely: perhaps from the comfort of your own home, sipping tea. The National Library of Belarus provides access to approximately 150 global databases, including those used by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

The national electronic library is a project for the future, explains Natalia Zaderkovskaya, Chief Specialist of Cultural Establishments and National Creativity at the Ministry of Culture. She tells us, “The project involves major financial investments and is being realised within a state programme to accelerate ICT services for 2011-2015. Not only libraries but also publishing houses are participating, with progress already evident. We are now analysing existing volumes of digitised information.” Providing full public access to this information is the real challenge of course.
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