Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 October 2011
Where does one begin? What is the first step? The library undoubtedly is the finest institution of civilisation. An ideal library is an ocean of published knowledge. World-class libraries exemplify this description. The Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution of the United States of America. It has a collection of more than 130 million items, which includes 29 million books and other printed materials. Taking a walk along its bookshelves spanning over 850 kilometres would be like traversing four times the distance between Delhi and Agra. The library of Princeton University includes nearly 6.2 million books, 36,000 linear feet of manuscripts, and impressive holdings of rare books, prints and archives. The University of Cambridge has a collection of 4.4 million while the Oxford University Library Service holds 11 million items.
Compared to these world-class centres, the libraries in India seem like ponds. The Parliament Library, the largest in Delhi and the second largest in India after the National Library at Kolkata, holds 1.27 million volumes of printed books, reports, government publications, reports, debates, gazettes and other documents. While it would be unfair to compare an ocean with a pond, what is of help is the fact that the two are not isolated. As a hydrological cycle connects a pond, lake and an ocean, such are the currents of globalisation. Today, trade and the Internet allow a larger access to publications than was ever possible.