India’s National Digital Library Is World’s Largest With 78 Million Content; Know How It’s Different From Search Engines

Bhubaneswar/Kolkata: With 78 million strong content references, the National Digital Library of India—spearheaded by IIT Kharagpur— has become the world’s largest and extensive online library, a comparative study conducted by library science experts and reviewed by the Ministry of Education, Government of India said.

Ranking second in terms of content, Europeana—a portal developed by the European Union containing digitized cultural heritage collections from over 3,000 institutions—has 53 million content. The Digital Public Library of America has 45 million content, while the National Library of New Zealand has 32 million digital content.

Conceived in 2015, the NDL of India aims to provide educational information to students across the country with as much as open and free content. Working as a federated library, the NDL has partnered with source content providers like different institutes, government departments, publishers, among others. “We take the metadata of the content. For instance, if you have content, there is a description record for that. The information is extracted from the repository of the source and collated centrally,” said Partha Pratim Das, professor at the Department of Computer Science & Engineering.

But, how is this library different from a search engine. As professor Das puts it, the search for content is more specific and efficient at this digital platform. “In Google, based on the keywords, you get the search results. Here, you can search with keywords or you can simply utter the subject. For instance, if you say you want physics books for Class VIII, only those books appropriate for the standard will be shown to the user,” he explained. The link provided with the content redirects the user to the source provider, from where the students can download the content.

Interestingly, out of 78 million content, 56 million are open and free. The library was entirely developed by IIT Kharagpur with the help of staff and students, without the use of any commercial software. “We regularly collect content and add to this,” he added. During the pandemic, the digital library turned out to be a great help to students as it offered a database of old question papers, reference books and other informative materials to aid their exam preparations. “We introduced a separate collection for the CBSE examination. There are collections for school-level exams, colleges (graduation courses), research topics, etc,” shared Das.

Application for patent

IIT Kharagpur has also applied for a patent on a part of the library. “No digital library in the world does the kind of automation we provide. This makes it very efficient. Every month, we are adding references to more than 1 million content. In a day, we are adding 50,000 content by collating and processing the metadata. It can’t be done manually. In a digital library, on an average, a staff can manually store about 15 to 20 content references a day. So, adding 50,000 content references a day would require humongous manpower. But, we have solved the problem using a lot of automation. Thus, we have applied for an Indian patent, which is due to be listed,” said Das, who is the joint principal investigator of the project along with Partha Pratim Chakraborti.

World’s first information centre on disabilities

The researchers at IIT Kharagpur have also integrated a first-of-its-kind National Disability Knowledge Portal with the digital library, titled ‘DivyaGyan’. It integrates resources on employment, training and vocational caregivers, institutions, assistive technology, apps and achievers, among others.