Are Indian libraries VIP-friendly? Information use and information seeking behaviour of visually impaired people in Delhi libraries.

Author:Singh, K.P.


The real challenge in this information age is not producing information or storing information, but getting people to use information appropriately. Information is an indispensable raw material for right decision making and key resource for the development of a nation. Effective and efficient utilization of information has contributed in a big way towards the progress and sustainable development of the society. The modern society depends on it for its growth and development, as well as for its survival. In other words, modern society is characterized by the ability to identify, interpret, produce, process, transform, disseminate, use and reuse information; to make informed choices; and to share information and knowledge through effective networking mechanisms. The ability to take part in these processes has become an even more crucial precondition to participate in social life. Being able to use, read and understand communications is not only a precondition to participate in social life; it is also a key to quality of life for the individual. Not being able to read or write at the same level as everybody else is a serious disadvantage in the knowledge society. The importance of making information accessible for visually impaired people is now realized by different sections in different countries. For example, the UK legislation, such as The Disability Discrimination Act (The Stationary office 1995) highlighted the importance of making information accessible to the visually impaired people. Service providers now have to make "reasonable adjustments" for such special people .

India is now home to the world's largest number of sight-disadvantaged people. Out of the 37 million people across the globe who are blind, over 15 million are from India. Of these, Delhi has 15.5 lakh of visually impaired people, the second highest number in the country after Uttar Pradesh with 15.6 lakh. Delhi, the National capital Territory occupies an area of 1,483 sq km and has a population of nearly 14 million, of which 15.5 lakh are visually impaired.

Delhi, the capital of India boasts of having good libraries, documentation centres, information/library networks and LIS schools. Today, it has 14 university/deemed university libraries, more then 100 college libraries, a chain of more then 296 academic, special and public libraries and 2,888 school libraries. Delhi also boast of several other libraries of historical/national significance such as the National Science Library of NISCAIR, the National Medical Library, the National Agricultural Library of IARI, the National Archives Library, the National Documentation Centres such as the DESIDOC, NASSDOC, the Library of National Museum, the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, the Parliament Library and the Libraries of various national council. Apart from all these important libraries, Delhi also take care of the information needs of its population of special group of visually impaired people in the form of the National Association of Blind (NAB), All India Confederation Of The Blind (AICB), Blind Relief Association (BRA), National Federation Of Blind (NFB) and other Braille and Talking book libraries which caters to the information needs of this category of special people.

Review Studies

An extensive search revealed the paucity of studies on Information seeking behavior of the visually impaired people, hereafter called the VIP and also about the information services provided to the visually impaired people. Hence, not much research is carried out on Information seeking behavior of VIP. Subsequently, less literature is available on this area. Few important studies on Information seeking behavior of VIP are undertaken and are as:

Williamson, Schauder and Bow (2000) conducted a study entitled "Information seeking by blind and sight impaired citizens: an ecological study" published in the Information research. This article reports a study, which investigated information seeking by blind, and sight impaired people, with particular emphasis on the role of Internet. The study focused very specifically on both personal lives and broader social contexts. The techniques for collecting qualitative data included two focus groups involving 16 participants and 15 individual interviewees, from both city and country settings. The findings of the study address issues of information needs, information sources, the role of the Internet in meeting needs and the barriers to the use of the Internet. It concludes that people who are blind and sight impaired deserve to be provided with a range of ways of meeting information needs, as are available for people with normal sight. Given the inexorable continuing impact of the information age, it is also concluded that ways must be found so that people with disabilities can participate equitably in the information economy.

Bell, Ruda, and Peters (2003) in their study entitled "The Librarian's quest: transforming the printed word so that all may read" published in the journal Computers in Libraries describes the work of the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center, in developing Digital Talking Books for readers who are visually, mentally and physically impaired. The center's pilot project learned some useful things about the future shape of Digital Talking Books that DTB playback devices need to have larger, better-spaced control buttons; that users need audible clues to indicate when various function have been executed and that DTBs need to provide variable-speed playback without causing the sound to become distorted .

Beaton (2005) in a study entitled "Glasgow City Council: library, information and learning services for disabled people in Glasgow" studied an outline of the public library service offered to disabled people in Glasgow, Scotland. This paper sketches how one public library service attempts to meet the challenge of offering service to its large and diverse body of disabled users, who may need to use any part of the public library system at any time, and whose needs must be anticipated. The study describes models for service delivery to disabled users, which will of great interest to those in public library management and library practice generally.

Tucker (2007) in his study entitled "Library and resource center for visually and print impaired people in developing countries" pointed out the situation of print impaired people in various countries and proposes possible activities to meet their needs based on existing projects and experience.

Purpose and Objective

The main purpose/objective of the study is to explore the information seeking behaviour and the information services provided to the visually impaired people in Delhi as well as to explore the information needs and their information seeking behaviour . The specific objectives are:

  1. To study the library services being provided by the Braille and Talking Book Libraries in Delhi;

  2. To identify the information sources available in these libraries;

  3. To understand the information needs and information seeking...

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