HEC’s devolution to scrap National Digital Library?


LAHORE – Librarians and research scholars on Friday condemned the purposed devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and said that it will directly affect the research culture in public and private-sector universities, as after the devolution, the HEC National Digital Library Programme will be stopped immediately due to lack of funding, Pakistan Today has learnt.
According to sources, the HEC is giving millions of rupees annually to various public and private-sector universities, as according to the programmes around 75,000 electronic contents of research journals are available to research scholars. The HEC has improved the status of libraries by providing access to electronic journals and books and the same status might become a victim when the HEC is abandoned.
According to Pakistan Librarians Association (PLA) members, due to HEC’s devolution, PhD programmes will suffer, as students will be deprived from digital research sources. The controversial decision to send the HEC packing is being implemented without taking into account the existing practices of developed and developing countries. Since 2002, the HEC is playing a crucial role in enhancing research culture and providing quality education.
The HEC National Digital Library Programme provides researchers an access to high-quality, peer-reviewed journals, databases, articles and e-books covering many areas of knowledge. Around 35 research journals and 45,000 books are also available on digital libraries. According to a Punjab University librarian, the commission assures quality of higher education; revises curriculum to meet market oriented needs and international standards and promotes research and development initiatives and technological reforms such as video conferencing facilities in varsities and campus management solutions.
He said that the decentralisation of HEC will deprive libraries of the HEC Digital Library, lead the nation to ignorance and damage the image of libraries and status of librarians. The PU librarian said that Pakistani librarians are well regarded by their clients due to provision of HEC’s digital resources. He said that students of MPhil and PhD complete their research work conveniently because of the availability of the HEC Digital Library. The librarian said that many researchers are utilising HEC’s digital resources and able to locate their required material by multiple search options and but if the “evil plans of so-called politicians” are accomplished then researchers will face immense difficulties.
King Edward Medical University (KEMU) Ophthalmology Department Librarian Sidratul Muntaha said that if the HEC was devolved to provinces, there will be no access to HEC’s digital resources and researchers from all over Pakistan will have to face plenty of problems regarding completion of their theses, dissertations, assignments and research projects. She said that librarians might also lose their esteem that they have earned by guiding researchers to access electronic journals and electronic books.
Another female PU librarian said that the HEC Digital Library Programme provides access to “a sea of knowledge” and this access will be over when the HEC is devolved to provinces. She said that elected representatives of the PLA should play their active role in this regard. The librarian said that all professionals should be united to cope with the prevailing hazard, as the situation is very alarming. PU PhD student Amir said that all this is happening due to selfishness of politicians.
He said that governments of the US, UK, India and Russia allocate budgets for research in medicine, science, nuclear energy, petroleum and engineering. PU Geography Department MPhil student Wasim said that hundreds of MPhil and PhD students from poor backgrounds take advantage of the digital library and students are tense about the HEC’s future.