This article was earlier sent to the The Hindu but it did not publish it. (Editor, BeyondHeadlines)
Abhay Kumar, Chandrasen, Dharmaraj Kumar, R Karthick Narayanan, Kusum Lata, Neetisha Khalkho, Nainy Rao, Rahul, Sandhya Das and others for BeyondHeadlines
It was a shocking experience to read the story about the library of Jawaharlal Nehru University (‘JNU library strives for excellence’, The Hindu, New Delhi, September 23, 2013, p. 3). We have no hesitation in stating that the reporter has not followed the minimum journalistic ethics while reporting the above mentioned news. And we feel strongly pursued to believe that this is a case of unethical journalism. Let us explain why?
The story is all about how the JNU library ‘strives for excellence’. The reporter begins her story with a quote by the JNU head librarian, Ramesh Gaur and it also ends with what the librarian has dictated. The news is woven in such a fashion that JNU library is presented as the best library for readers. Besides, the role of head librarian is depicted as if he came to JNU with a ‘magic wand’ and completely overhauled the ambience. The figures and information cited in news about so-called ‘achievements’—such as six lakh printed books, one lakh e-books, 800 printed journals, 2300 newspapers, 20000 digitalised dissertations and thesis—are being chanted in all officials programmes. Further the collection that is present now is not an achievement of the present librarian per se, rather it is a continuous collective effort of the student-teacher community over the past forty years. We can understand that the JNU librarian has a vested interest in withholding the information about the every-day problems of the readers, which we strongly condemn but how could the journalist from a noted national newspaper report only one version of the story and base her entire story on a bundle of quotes from the librarian without knowing the views of readers.
This letter is an effort to bring the students’ version about the excellence of the JNU library to everybody’s notice.. Let us name a few. (a) The books are quite often not found in the shelves and reported missing when asked for (b) Some of the library staff helping at the book-racks know no languages other than English and Hindi. As a result the library staff often take much longer time to locate books in foreign languages, Urdu and Tamil (c) It is a shame that the JNU Central library does not have 24X7 reading halls which has been a long standing demand of the students. Worse still, the readers find it so difficult to operate their laptop in the absence of power sockets (f) The newspapers section that claims to preserve a few English national dailies is completely not suitable for readers as the files are not kept properly. The case of magazine and journal sections is better but many of their previous issues are nowhere to be traced. (h) For a research scholar, the JNU library does not provide a conducive environment. For example, one is not allowed to carry personal books inside the library which are sometime absolute necessary for writing dissertation or thesis. (k) The library is yet go beyond the ‘helen kellar centre’ for providing facilities for physically challenged students (j) In the computer sections of the library, the operating system does not work for many other languages than English (k) There are a large number of students of Arabic, Persian and Urdu in JNU but the soft-ware ‘In-Page’ has not been sufficiently provided (l) Moreover, many important journals are still not arranged (m) There is a huge scarcity of even text books for many subjects like Linguistics. (o) On the top of that it is a shame that JNU does not have its own press even after over four decades of its establishments.
These are some of the problems that the student community face every day but the librarian instead for taking the suggestions from students continues to indulge in taking credits by making tall claims. Unfortunately the watchdog, the journalist, is lazy enough to take no pains to cross-check information. We strongly disapprove and condemn such unethical journalism.
(Authors are associated with Concerned Students (Concerned Students is an Independent Left Students’ forum in JNU)