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The development of
computerised library services
A review of the literature
University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan
Keywords Libraries, Automation, Computers, Pakistan
Abstract Computer technology in libraries has revolutionised the concept of rapid and accurate
information services. In Pakistan, though, computer technology is new and is being successfully
introduced in all types of libraries and information centres. This article reviews the literature on the
use of computers in Pakistan’s libraries. The literature includes monographs, journal articles, reports,
etc. published inside and outside Pakistan, discussing information technology, specific library
applications, the activities of individual libraries and automation education. The need for library
automation and the problems faced by Pakistani professionals in this respect are also discussed.
Although the use of computers in libraries and information centres is a recent
innovation in the developed world, during the last ten years a significant
number of Pakistani libraries have also been enjoying the benefits of this
technology. With the inception of computer technology in libraries new terms
like “information technology” and “library automation” have become common.
Computers, telecommunications and microelectronics are used in libraries for
obtaining, storing and transferring information. The ability of a computer to
carry out these library functions quickly, accurately, and systematically, makes
it a most useful tool. The timely availability of information can play a
fundamental role in the development of a country like Pakistan.
International agencies played a very important role in introducing
computerised library services to Pakistan. Among these organisations the most
noteworthy are the Asia Foundation, USAID, the International Development
Research Centre of Canada, and the Netherlands government. These agencies
provided Pakistani libraries with funds and advisory services. During the 1990s
the Netherlands Library Development Project (NLDP) was instrumental in
introducing new information technology to Pakistan. Its major projects included
the provision of hardware to libraries and library schools, establishment of
computer centres, training of professionals inside and outside Pakistan, library
software development, retrospective conversion, developing CD-ROM databases,
and introducing information technology into the library science curriculum.
From the beginning of computer use in Pakistani libraries, authors in the
field of library and information science have written about it. A reasonable
Asian Libraries, Vol. 8 No. 9, 1999,
pp. 307-328. © MCB University
Refereed article received
20 August 1998
publication 1 April 1999
amount of literature on information technology has so far been produced in
Pakistan. This article is an attempt to collect and review the literature on this
significant topic. The aim of this review is to describe the situation of computer
use in Pakistani libraries and also to provide researchers in this field with a
bibliography on the subject.
Definition and scope
This article focuses on activities which are being carried out in Pakistani
libraries in the field of automation. Almost all the literature published on the
subject in Pakistan emphasises the importance and need for computers in
libraries, and many papers include brief report on current hardware,
telecommunications and library software. Computerised services in libraries
such as housekeeping routines, information storage and retrieval, and
networking are also discussed. Some authors outline methods of using
computers in libraries. The literature includes many case studies of individual
libraries throughout the country.
In preparing this article, 124 items (books, journal articles, reports,
conference/workshop proceedings, and some unpublished documents) have
been reviewed. Every attempt was made to survey the literature
comprehensively, both through conventional, indexed sources and the “invisible
college” approach. Almost all available items have been included in the review
and bibliography. Some items published in Pakistan, but dealing with purely
theoretical aspects of library automation or written to describe the activities of
advanced countries, have been omitted.
A majority of the articles covered in this paper were published in library
Pakistan Library Bulletin is the only library journal which has
been successfully published for more than 25 years. It continues to be a key
source for materials on any aspect of Pakistani librarianship. It is the source of
the highest number of articles in this review (22). Another source of information
on library automation is PULSAA News, which began publication in 1989. Its
two special issues on Pakistani librarianship were later published as books.
Periodical literature published by the Pakistan Library Association is also an
important source of articles and reports on library automation. This includes
the Pakistan Library Association Journal and the newsletters of PLA
Headquarters, Punjab and Federal Branches. The University of Peshawar held
a conference on library automation in 1993, and the published proceedings were
a significant contribution to the literature. Under the auspices of the NLDP, the
Library Automation Group was formed in the federal capital city of Islamabad.
This group started to publish the LAG News in 1993, but after two issues it
ceased. The Department of Library and Information Science at Punjab
University, Lahore, began publication of an annual magazine named Pakistani
Librarian in 1995.
Some monographs on the subject of library automation have appeared,
mainly on the theoretical aspects of the topic. After searching LISA, some
articles published in foreign journals were also included in the review. Other
reviewed literature includes articles published in national newspapers, reports
of organisations, and some unpublished articles. Of the total of 124 items, 15 are
Need for computerised services
As computers are relatively new in Pakistani librarianship, most writers
emphasise their necessity and importance. Asghar (1994) recommends
computers for libraries because of their speed and accuracy, factors also
mentioned by Chughtaie (1994). Moinuddin (1992) suggests that the
proliferation of information can be controlled by computers, and discusses
information dissemination which can only be made possible by the use of
information technology (Moinuddin, 1994). According to Arshad (1992), there
are two main reasons why we develop computer-based library systems: to
provide a better service at a lower or insignificant cost, and to provide added
benefits economically. Sadiq (1993) expresses the opinion that automation is
necessary for public libraries to be part of the nation’s modernisation. He also
says that “automation enables libraries to place their entire collection at the
immediate disposal of the users. Once the electronic systems are adopted, the
range of activities of public libraries will also grow. The image of libraries will
improve and so will the image of librarians”.
Ayub and Ghazanfar (1994) and Riaz (1991) state four reasons for library
(1) the flood of information;
(2) services to readers;
(3) efficiency and accuracy; and
(4) resource sharing.
According to Shah (1983) computers can save money and time, as data about a
holding or transaction are entered into the computer only once. Computerised
data are flexible and can be used for various purposes. Taj (1995) mentions the
storage problem faced by almost all libraries in the world, and suggests that
with the help of computers we can reduce the amount of space taken up by
books and reference sources. Liaqat (1993) counts 25 advantages of library
automation, including simplicity, portability, durability and security of data;
multiple copies; and standardisation and centralisation of services. Khalid
(1996) gives ten reasons for library automation, and also provides some
examples from library routines.
Reviews and surveys
Computerised library services in Pakistan have not been reviewed much in the
literature of library science. Two review articles have recently been written by
the author. Reviewing 97 articles on Pakistani librarianship published in library
journals outside Pakistan, Khalid (1996f) finds only eight articles on the topics
of information technology and library automation. In another article, Khalid
(1996e) reviews the literature on Pakistani librarianship published since 1990.
Of the 62 items reviewed, 15 are on information technology.
A survey of computerised library services has not been conducted so far at a
national level. However, Maqsood (1993) surveyed 95 libraries which use
computers in the cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The majority have IBM-
compatible personal computers, and most libraries concentrate on cataloguing
and acquisition. Staff trained in library automation work in only 39 per cent of
institutions. Haroon (1995) surveys the status of library automation at Lahore,
where out of 40 automated libraries, 19 are specialist, 15 are academic and six
are public. CDS/ISIS is generally used for automation, and most of the libraries
have automated their cataloguing functions. Sadiq (1994a) lists 23 automated
libraries throughout the country using the respective software.
Najaf (1995) points out that only five universities use computers in their
libraries: three agricultural universities and two private university libraries,
using CD-ROM databases. In a survey of 15 university libraries, Yaqub (1990)
finds only three which have computers. Javed and Meer (1990) surveyed 51
agricultural libraries and described the automation activities of four of them:
the National Agricultural Research Centre, Islamabad; NWFP University of
Agriculture, Peshawar; Sind University of Agriculture, Tandojam; and
NADLIN, Islamabad. In a public library survey of the Punjab province
conducted by Taj (1990), only three libraries (Quaid-e-Azam Library, Lahore;
Dyal Singh Trust Library, Lahore; and Jinnah Public Library, Gujranwala) were
reported to use computers for cataloguing. According to Anjum (1990), six out
of 15 medical libraries have computers, later updated by Sukhera (1992) to
Physical equipment is the major component of a computing system. In his book,
Riaz (1991), presents a detailed picture of computer hardware. He describes
central processing units, input/output devices, and generations and types of
computer. Ayub and Ghazanfar (1994) also discuss hardware in detail. They
describe computer architecture, memory and input/output/auxiliary storage
devices. Computer classification by system as analogue, digital, or hybrid, and
by size as main frame, mini and microcomputer are also given. Liaqat (1994)
discusses input devices, processing and output devices. Javed (1992) explains
local area networks, particularly for microcomputers. The advantages of LAN
include sharing information, programs and hardware and sending messages,
while expansiveness, complexity and network dependence are the
Riaz (1991) describes telecommunication technology such as online versus off-
line communication, time-sharing systems, transmission media, cable
television, telecommunication networks, packet-switching technique, LAN,
videotext, teletext, telefacsimile, microfacsimile, teleconferencing, confravision,
electronic mail and satellite communication. Ayub and Ghazanfar (1994) also
include a chapter on telecommunication in their book.
Nasreen (1993) discusses the techniques of time-sharing. Akbar (1993)
discusses the development of telecommunication technology in Pakistan. About
200 cities and towns are connected with the nation wide dialling system, and
about 70 countries are accessible through the automatic international
subscribers dialling system. In addition, the Telephone and Telegraph
Department has introduced the packet switched public data network to provide
reliable and secure data communication. Sajid (1994) mentions the very first
bulletin board system named 786BBS which is based in Karachi. Areola (1995)
lists the companies which are providing e-mail and Internet facilities. These
include Digicom, which provides e-mail to more than 500 users in Karachi.
IMranNet provides services in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar.
EduNet, maintained by the UNDP’s sustainable development networking
programme, provides access to a wealth of educational resources.
Ahsan (1995) explains how to connect to the Internet. The major institutions
involved in these activities are: the National University of Science and
Technology, Islamabad; Lahore University of Management Sciences; the
National Institute of Electronics, Islamabad; the Commission on Science and
Technology for Sustainable Development in the South, Islamabad; and the
Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation. The SDNP is active in spreading
Internet literacy. The author has also given a list of e-mail and Internet
providers in Pakistan with their prices. Salam (1996, 1996a) presents a detailed
discussion on the use of Internet in libraries.
Software is the most important item in the automation process. A computer
without software is like a library with neither books nor librarians. Riaz (1991)
and Ayub and Ghazanfar (1994) include chapters in their books on software.
They discuss types such as language software, operating systems, utilities, and
application software. While describing the library software Riaz (1991)
mentions DOBIS/LIBIS, NOTIS, Virginia Tech. Library system, and Maggie’s
Pak Book Corporation has developed a user-friendly library package which
includes inventory control, acquisition, cataloguing, circulation, serials control
and information retrieval. According to Khalid (1995c), this software was not
popular among Pakistani libraries and was thus discontinued. Foreign software
used includes dBase, Foxpro, INMAGIC and CDS/ISIS. Examples of local
software are KITABDAR and LAMP. Naqvi (1993) describes the features of
CDS/ISIS and gives a sample application of the software. Khalid (1993) discusses
the new features of CDS/ISIS which have been introduced in Version 3.0, a LAN
version. Khalid (1995b) states 29 reasons for using CDS/ISIS in Pakistani
libraries. Hanif (1993) compares CDS/ISIS with INMAGIC in features such as
specifications, indexing, deferred indexing options for maintenance,
input/output, data validation, searching, display and many others. As CDS/ISIS
is free, multilingual, convertible to MINISIS and ISIS mainframe, it is
recommended as the best library software for Pakistani libraries.
Sattar and Sajjad (1992) evaluated the Pakistan Library Information
Management System which was developed by local software company, System
Limited, for the National Assembly Library under a USAID grant administered
by the Asia Foundation. The COBOL-based program of this software package
was developed on a DEC platform running in a minicomputer environment.
Khalid (1996b) describes LAMP software, an integrated package developed by
the NLDP with the help of the PLA. Its different modules include acquisition,
cataloguing and circulation of both monographs and serials. It is the software
used in the highest number of libraries in Pakistan.
Computers can be used in various library services. Riaz (1991) and Ayub and
Ghazanfar (1994) divide these services into two categories: library
housekeeping routines and information retrieval. Housekeeping routines
include acquisition, cataloguing, circulation and serials control. Chishti (1989)
lists the applications of microcomputers in the fields of cataloguing, circulation,
indexing, reference and database searching, acquisition and ordering,
administration, teaching, distribution, inventories, network, recreation,
information, serial control, and many others. Iftikhar (1989) also discusses the
use of computers in acquisition, cataloguing and classification, circulation,
serials control, indexing, reference services, and preparing bibliographies. Taj
(1995) describes computer applications in libraries as acquisition, cataloguing,
circulation, establishment matters, cooperation and resource sharing.
Library housekeeping routines
Computers have been used most extensively in cataloguing library materials.
Riaz (1991) includes a chapter on automated cataloguing in his book. He
discusses MARC, online catalogues, bibliographic utilities, COM, OPAC, in-
house automated cataloguing, and the advantages of automated cataloguing in
libraries. Khalid (1991) explains the types of catalogues prepared with the help
of computers, including book catalogues, card catalogues, COM, and online
catalogues. Bhatti et al. (1987) discuss the advantages of automated catalogues
and give the procedure for the conversion of manual catalogues to machine
In an Urdu textbook for graduate students, Allama Iqbal Open University
includes a chapter on cataloguing and computers. Shabab (1990) includes
detailed discussion on COM, online catalogues, MARC records and
retrospective conversion. Another Urdu book on cataloguing, by Anis (1993),
includes a chapter on the role of computers in shared cataloguing. The author
explains the concepts of CIP, MARC, CD-ROM, OCLC, RLIN and UBC. Masud
(1988) outlines the steps in designing a computerised interactive book query
Acquisition of library materials is another important activity in a library
which can be computerised. According to Khalid (1991), selection of material,
bibliographic verification, ordering, budgeting and file management in the
acquisition department can be computerised. Riaz (1991) further discusses the
concepts of tele-ordering and the relationship between acquisition and other
library sections. Khalid (1991) lists the advantages of using computers in
circulation. According to Riaz (1991), maintaining borrowers’ files and
transactions at the circulation desk can be computerised. In her Urdu article,
Nasim (1988) explains the use of computers in circulation to issue, return and
reserve a book; calculate fines; and prepare statistical reports of transactions.
Another area in which computers have made a significant contribution is
serials control. According to Khalid (1991) and Riaz (1991), computers can
handle inventory, ordering and acquisition, accessions, cataloguing and
circulation of serials.
Information storage and retrieval
The impact of computers in the field of reference services and information
searching appeared in the Pakistani library literature as early as 1979. Akhlaq
(1979) introduces the Congressional Research Service, Lockheed Information
System’s DIALOG search service and the System Development Corporation’s
ORBIT search service. Mirza (1982) discusses the impact of computers on
current affairs services, SDI, retrospective searching, and document delivery.
Akbar (1988) describes in detail the computerised selective dissemination of
information. He also mentions some Pakistani institutions, particularly in the
field of science and technology, which provide SDI.
CD-ROM technology, invented in 1985, became popular in libraries very
quickly and has revolutionised the storage and retrieval of information.
Attaullah (1990) and Khalid (1995a) describe the features of CD-ROM
technology, its advantages and problems for library applications. Salam (1996b)
presents a more detailed description of the use of CD-ROM in libraries. Rind
(1996) explains CD-ROM technology, focussing on its hardware and software
and usage in the field of librarianship. According to Zuberi (1994), in August
1989, the Directorate of Scientific Information at the National Agricultural
Research Centre installed a CD-ROM unit along with the AGRICOLA database.
This was the first appearance of CD-ROMs in Pakistani libraries/information
centres. Now more than 32 institutions in Pakistan are using CD-ROM
technology for searching international databases, more than 70 are available.
Most of these are on agriculture, biology and the medical sciences. But
databases on other fields, such as education, economics, sociology, water
resources, environment, fisheries, extension, library and information science,
science and technology are also available. Encyclopaedias, dictionaries and
computer programmes are also purchased in CD-ROM format by some libraries
for their reference sections. Zuberi and Bhatti (1993) give a list of CD-ROM
databases available in various Pakistani libraries.
Resource sharing and library networks
One of the major advantages of computers is resource sharing and cooperation
among libraries, made possible through networks. Khalid (1988) writes a
comprehensive essay on this topic in Urdu, covering the uses of library
networks in resource sharing, centralised processing as in cataloguing,
circulation, reference and time sharing. Attaullah (1992) describes the
cooperative activities among Pakistani libraries. The National Agricultural
Research Centre has undertaken a programme to provide hardware and
INMAGIC software to 16 agricultural libraries, in order to create a mechanism
for sharing collections among the participating libraries. The NARC has also
developed Foxbase software for serial holdings. This database, called the Union
Database of Serials, presently provides information on the periodical holdings
of about 12 libraries.
The Lahore Business and Economic Libraries Network is aimed at
facilitating resource sharing among libraries in Lahore, to improve access to
serials held by participating libraries and to create databases of government
documents, research reports and monographs. Bushra (1990, 1990a) discusses
this project, which is financed by the International Development Research
Centre of Canada and the Lahore University of Management Sciences. There are
nine member libraries, and computer hardware has been purchased. Librarians
from member libraries have been trained in CDS/ISIS software. Two databases
have been set up: SENET designed for union list of serials, and UNIC for
bibliographic records. It contains 1,800 records. LABELNET played a pivotal
role in introducing CDS/ISIS software to Pakistani libraries.
Nuzhat (1990) describes the activities of the National Documentation Centre
Library and Information Network in the field of water resources which is
funded by USAID. The others involved in NADLIN include eight institutions
working in the field of water management which were provided with technical
training and computers. A database of resources on water management has
been developed in SCIMATE software. NADLIN plans to establish a remote
sensing system via satellite which would deliver geographical information on
water resources. This system will provide images and aerial surveys to national
organisations to support their research results and development projects.
Techniques of library automation
The steps involved in library automation have also been discussed in the
literature. Riaz (1991) writes a chapter on the planning and implementation of
computerisation projects. Automated systems can be procured either as
transferred or turnkey systems, or there is the third option of in-house
development. System selection criteria are given, and the option of individual or
integrated systems is also discussed.
The implementation process includes staff training, introduction to library
users and system evaluation. Discussing the myths and realities of library
automation in Pakistan, Sajjad (1993) tries to sort out the confusion about
library automation in the minds of librarians. He says a badly-managed library
cannot be changed by computers; they can retrieve information about
documents but not provide access to the documents; library automation is not
an objective in itself; just buying a computer does not constitute library
automation; provision of the right hardware is only one of many prerequisites
for automation projects; in-house system development is too costly for our
libraries; and the training of personnel and retrospective conversion are
important facets of library automation.
Anwar (1993) discusses some critical issues in the use of information
technology in Pakistani libraries. According to his figures, Pakistan spends
only 0.2 per cent of its GNP on research and development activities. Foreign
information resources and services are expensive; it is impossible for
individual libraries to be self-sufficient; national information centres should
be set up; there should be coordination among libraries and information
centres; a national centre for software development and training should be
created; and appropriate human resources should be developed for library
Johnson (1991) gives some suggestions for the sustainable development of
computerised information systems: a sensible time frame; realistic cost
estimates; thorough understanding of procurement and installation of hardware
and software; prepare a needs assessment and set priorities for implementation;
training for systems manager and information staff; document the system; and
encourage competence in word-processing. To support these points, the author
mentions his experiences in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
Mujahid (1992) explains the process of hiring consultants for library
automation. Various characteristics of consultants and the problems faced by
libraries in hiring them are discussed in detail. Chishti (1996) describes the
methods of saving information in the computer age. Security threats to
information are discussed, and various information safeguards are described.
Tariq (1996) gives methods of writing software documentation, e.g.
programming documentation, documentation of testing, operators’ manuals
and procedures manual are discussed.
Activities of individual institutions
The automation projects of individual libraries, information centres and other
library-related institutions feature prominently in Pakistan’s library literature.
The accounts of practical difficulties faced by these institutions may be helpful
for others in planning for computerised services. These narratives also draw a
picture of the overall library automation situation in different types of libraries.
A computer centre has recently been set up in the National Library of Pakistan;
a minicomputer and 12 IBM compatible microcomputers are under installation.
Currently, ISBN records and the Pakistan National Bibliography are
maintained with the help of computers, and multilingual application software is
Naqvi (1982) mentions two universities which have computer facilities:
Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, and Engineering University, Lahore. The
library of the computer science department is to some extent computerised at
Quaid-e-Azam University. Some years later, Hanif and Mehboob (1993)
described the automation programme of Quaid-e-Azam University. The vice-
chancellor instituted a Library Automation Committee, which decided to
automate library functions with the NEC mainframe computer already installed
in the computer centre. It has 32 terminals housed in the computer centre,
teaching departments, library and offices of the university. Four terminals are
planned for the library. Software for cataloguing has been developed in-house
by a programmer at the university. It has been decided that ISBD/MARC II
format will be used as a standard in cataloguing. The first phase of the
automation project was started in July 1992 by converting the cataloguing
records from cards. A team of 14 people converted 95 per cent of the data, about
55,000 records, into machine readable form.
Yaqub (1993) describes the library automation activities at Bahauddin
Zakariya University, Multan, where the authorities were so anxious to introduce
computerised library services that they included a purpose-built room in the
design of the library building. The library purchased a Macintosh computer
with a dot-matrix printer. In consultation with library experts, the hardware
supplier developed appropriate software, which is still in the experimental
stage. The data entry of catalogue cards is making progress, with data on about
4,000 books having been entered. Future plans include the automation of
acquisition and circulation and having CD-ROM technology.
Bushra (1990b) describes the library automation experience at the Lahore
University of Management Sciences, which started its library automation
programme in 1986. There was no local expertise, so the librarian was sent to
the USA to developing basic skills in database management. After a review of
various software packages, INMAGIC was chosen for use on microcomputers
(it will be upgraded to the network version in the future), and the use of barcode
technology has also been introduced.
Soomro (1993) reports the automation activities of the Allama I.I. Kazi
Library at the University of Sindh, which first acquired computers in 1989. The
mathematics and computer science departments of the University provided
staff to help in automating library procedures. An in-house library software
named SINDHU has been developed to handle circulation and cataloguing, and
AACR is used in cataloguing books.
The Government of Pakistan and USAID awarded a grant for library
automation at the NWFP Agricultural University, Peshawar (Attaullah and
Johnson, 1991; Attaullah, 1993; 1994). The computerisation started in 1987, and
the library has two Zenith 386 computers, one laser printer, one dot-matrix
printer, and one UPS. INMAGIC textbase software is also used. The functions of
acquisition, cataloguing, serials control and circulation are carried out on
computer. CD-ROM searching in agriculture is also available in the library. Syed
Babar Ali Library, Aitchison College Lahore uses Foxbase+ language and
80486 DX machine, and developed an in-house package in 1990 (Ashraf, 1996).
OPAC and circulation services have been computerised, they use a XENIX
operating system on the local area network, and 7,000 records of the library
have been entered.
In Pakistan, most specialist libraries use computers in providing their
services, owing to better financial resources and fewer bureaucratic hurdles,
particularly in the private sector. The first computer was used in the Pakistan
National Scientific and Technological Documentation Centre in 1964, which
used the punch card system (Sherwani, 1989). Akbar (1986) describes computer
use at some scientific institutes, including the Pakistan Scientific and
Technological Information Centre, Islamabad, which creates union catalogues
and maintains databases of scientific literature with the help of computers.
PASTIC has a microcomputer 8088 with dBase software.
The Pakistan Agricultural Research Council has access to AGRIS and
CARIS databases, and has a microcomputer with dBase software. The AGRIS
document delivery service, content service, and current affairs service are
provided via computer, and union catalogues of serials have also been
maintained. The Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology is a
liaison office for the International Nuclear Information System and provides
access to the INIS database. A computer printout of bibliographic descriptions
and abstracts is sent to the scientists as SDI. At Pakistan Administrative Staff
College, Lahore, an in-house software named PASCMATE was developed using
dBase III Plus (Chishti, 1990). The software can handle the functions of online
public access catalogues, article index, printing of catalogue cards, serial
control, new arrivals production, compiling bibliographies, and preparation of
library bulletins. Other administrative functions such as preparing reports and
statistics are also being carried out by computer. The first CD-ROM database of
AGRICOLA arrived in 1989 at the National Agricultural Research Centre,
Islamabad (Shaheen and Zuberi, 1990). Searching on this database is available
to agricultural scientists throughout the country. At Dr A.Q. Khan Research
Laboratories, CDS/ISIS has been installed in the library (Bhatti and Sultan,
1990). It has entered about half of its total documents in a database created in
CDS/ISIS, and a network version is used (Sultan and Bhatti, 1992).
The University Grants Commission Library began automation in 1991 with
INMAGIC software donated by NARC (Ishtiaq, 1993). At National Engineering
Services Pakistan, Lahore, local software has been developed in Foxbase+ by
the computer applications division (Shabana. 1993) and 80 per cent of the
collection has been keyed into the computer. The new automated services
include a new arrivals list, subject bibliographies and a current affairs service.
The Pakistan Institute of Development Economics at Islamabad became the
ISIS Resource Centre in 1979, with technical and financial assistance from the
International Development Research Centre of Canada (Siddiqui, 1992). Under
this project, the PIDE Library created a computerised database containing 700
records. In 1988, an IBM compatible microcomputer was purchased for the
PIDE Library, and another computer was purchased in 1990 (Naqvi, 1996). The
library uses CDS/ISIS and has maintained three databases. CD-ROM
technology was installed in 1994 with two databases: POPIN and DAICD. The
library of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad, has 14
databases on CD-ROM and four on diskettes (Zuberi and Salam, 1994). They
developed three databases locally using CDS/ISIS software which is also used
on the LAN (Zuberi and Salam, 1996).
Khalid (1996d) reports the retrospective conversion of catalogues in 14
specialist libraries, including six at legislative assemblies and some at NGOs.
These libraries use LAMP software and the computerisation contract was with
the PLA and the NLDP. Akhtar (1991) describes the use of information
technology in medical libraries in Pakistan. The College of Physicians and
Surgeons Library has been designated as the national focal point for MEDLINE
and has acquired the CD-ROM disks from 1980 onwards. Abrantes et al. (1989)
describe a microcomputer simulation of primary health care developed by the
Agha Khan University, Karachi.
The automation of public libraries is less common in the literature. Quaid-e-
Azam Library, Lahore, started automation in 1989 with the financial assistance
of the Punjab Library Foundation (Akhtar, 1996). It established a local area
network and now uses many terminals in various departments. For cataloguing
books and periodical indexing, an in-house software program has been
developed in dBase and Clippers. For books in Urdu, Arabic and Persian, a
ready made software package called KITABDAR is being used. Programmes
for the membership directory, annual stock checking, weeding/cancelling
books, circulation of books and control of reports have been designed using
CDS/ISIS software. In 1993 the hardware was reviewed, and some more
terminals were added to the network.
The Dyal Singh Trust Library, Lahore, has a separate computer section,
where KITABDAR software is used for both English and Urdu cataloguing
(Atheer, 1993). Various terminals have been installed and are connected to a
network. The Jinnah Public Library, Gujranwala, has developed its software
locally, with 20 fields on the database (Aslam, 1990). Single, multiple and
substring searches are available, and a microcomputer is also available for use
by children. US-based software DATATREK has been installed in the USIS
Library, Islamabad, where automation started in 1993 (Mujahid, 1994). The
different modules of DATATREK include cataloguing, circulation, serials,
acquisitions, OPAC, databridge, and a report generator. CD-ROM databases of
15 different types are available in the Library, which has five PCs. Library staff
downloaded about 9,000 records from LC MARC tapes.
The British Council Library at Lahore has CD-ROM databases, the most
useful among them being MEDLINE (Javed, 1995). In June 1995, the Council
Libraries in Pakistan were connected with each other through electronic mail.
The Punjab Library Foundation is one of the public library related
organisations. The Foundation purchased a PC 386 and a laser printer. The
details of the grants allocated to different libraries in the province have been
computerised. A directory of libraries of the country is also being compiled on
this computer. The Foundation also has donated millions of rupees to various
libraries for their automation projects (Taj, 1991).
Education and training
There are six library schools in Pakistan which offer postgraduate courses in
library and information science on a regular basis. As regards automation
training, the condition of library schools in the country is disappointing
(Khalid, 1995). According to Ilyas (1993), the concept of “information science”
has so far been introduced in theory without any concrete steps towards
adoption of the new technology. Hamid (1993) points out the problems in
introducing courses on automation in library schools. These problems include
the lack of computer hardware in the schools. The school in Karachi was the
first to have a computer, followed by the school in Peshawar. The Lahore school
has the highest number computers – four with its full computer laboratory. The
schools in Bahawalpur, Quetta, and Hyderabad are still lacking computer
Another problem is the lack of expertise. Jalibi (1988) mentions that, when he
was the vice chancellor in 1983, the first-ever computer-based laboratory in
Pakistan’s library schools was established at Karachi University. He also
provided funds to this laboratory to develop its own programming for
cataloguing and serial record control. The Department of Library Science at the
University of the Punjab, Lahore, has five computers with two printers (Khalid,
1996a). A CD-ROM drive has also been installed. Six of seven faculty members
are computer literate, and a course on library automation is being taught to the
Masters students. Some faculty members are also undertaking library
automation training offered by professional associations in various cities.
Teachers contribute papers on the subject of information technology to various
conferences and professional journals, inside and outside the country. Khalid
(1996g) outlines some proposals to start information technology education in
Pakistani library schools with no increase in costs. In addition to the usual
faculty at schools, computer science teachers at the universities and working
librarians can be hired for teaching library automation. At this time, all schools
have at least one computer each. However, the computer laboratories of the
computer science departments of the Universities and PLA Computer Training
Centres can be used for practical work.
Sattar (1992) reviews the coverage of information science in the curricula of six
Pakistani library schools. The findings show that the topics of information
storage and retrieval, and information technology are adequately covered,
while information networks, electronic data processing, online searching, and
implementing automated systems are covered inadequately. Microcomputer
applications are neglected in the curricula. The Board of Studies of Library
Science at Punjab University approved a revised curriculum in 1990, in which
the course on information science was introduced in MLIS Part I (Sajjad, 1990).
Other computer-related courses, such as database design and management,
networks and networking and the application of computers in library and
information services, were included in Part II.
The University Grants Commission revised the curriculum of Master in
Library and Information Science in 1991. One of the new course objectives was
to develop understanding among students about the application of information
technology for efficient organisation, storage and retrieval of information. The
topics of library automation, networks and networking, and information
storage and retrieval were included in the syllabus as optional courses. The
provision of computing facilities at library schools was also recommended.
UGC again revised the curriculum in 1995, making the course on library
automation/information storage and retrieval compulsory. Other courses
included resource sharing and networking, and the management of information
systems. A library automation course for university teachers was
recommended. A computer laboratory with 11 PCs in each department was also
To keep working professionals abreast of the latest in information technology,
continuing education is vital. The five PLA Computer Training Centres play a
pivotal role in training working librarians. These centres, with 11 IBM-
compatible computers, have been set up by The Netherlands Library
Development Project in the federal and provincial headquarters of the Pakistan
Library Association: Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta. A
proposal for computer centres at Hyderabad and Bahawalpur was also under
consideration but was dropped due to budgetary constraints (NLDP, 1995). The
aim of the centres is to provide training to working librarians, training to
students of library and information science, a place for practice and the
necessary infrastructure for the library automation projects of the PLA (Khalid,
1996c). The Lahore Centre opened on 2 November 1992 (Bushra, 1993a). By
January 1996 the Centre had held 13 courses in a total of 120 weeks. Out of 259
participants, 43 have been female. The centre also provides free consultancy
services to libraries (Khalid, 1996d). Courses on computer basics, word-
processing, spreadsheet management, database management and library
automation have being conducted at the Centre (Khalid, 1995). According to the
donor agency, NLDP, the Lahore Centre is functioning extremely well and is
totally self-sufficient (NLDP, 1995). The PLA (1994) gives detailed information
about the Quetta Centre. Sadiq (1994) mentions nine courses held at the Karachi
Centre. According to Samdani (1995), 126 professionals have been trained there
– 31 per cent of the total number of librarians in the city.
Other continuing education activities include courses conducted by
professional associations. The PLA has arranged various courses, workshops,
seminars and lectures on the topic of library automation. The Punjab University
Library Science Alumni Association has arranged three courses on the use of
microcomputers in libraries (Khalid, 1995). The NLDP has invited automation
experts from abroad to conduct various courses in Pakistan. Pakistani
librarians have also been sent by the NLDP to The Netherlands for advanced
training in information technology (Khalid, 1996c). The topic of the 15th PLA
Conference in 1994 was “Information technology in Pakistan: potentials and
prospects”, so many papers on library automation were presented (Samdani,
Problems in library automation
Pakistani libraries face many problems in implementing computer projects.
Naqvi (1982) mentions several obstacles. Computerised methods are new in this
country, so working librarians have no practical experience. The large number
of computer brands and languages adds to the difficulties. No professional
librarian has specialised in computers, and computer personnel are not well-
suited to apply computers to library operations. Computer applications for
libraries are not taught at university level. The librarians, educationalists and
planners are not yet interested in computers. The librarians’ rigidity and
conservatism are also a problem. However, the cost of computer hardware and
software is the most important factor. Hassan (1994) describes some
environmental constraints that influence the introduction of information
technology in Pakistan. Bushra (1993) and Haroon (1996) list the issues as
computer illiteracy, improper planning, lack of funds, lack of library software,
lack of training facilities, retrospective conversion, lack of standardisation and
quality control, bureaucratic set-up and unavailability of vendor support.
Looking at the literature
The literature on computerised services in libraries has burgeoned in Pakistan
in the last ten years. More than 80 per cent of the total literature on this topic has
been published since 1990, and the volume of the literature continues to grow
annually. The impression this reviewer has received is that the material is
continuing to stress the importance of computer use in libraries and to
emphasise that library automation is in its infancy in Pakistan. Although
professionals should be aware of the importance and advantages of computer
use, authors in the field of library automation should start writing on practical
aspects in depth. For the most part, the literature consists of simple descriptions
of automation activities in individual libraries: the majority continues to be of
the “what we did, how we did it, do it, or plan to do it” type.
Publications of this sort are obviously appropriate and needed, but it would
be helpful if they went beyond simply reporting what was done and how, and
also reported why. Why was the project begun? What alternatives were
considered and why were certain ones rejected in favour of others? Why has the
project been successful (or not)? It would be very useful if authors provided
more planning and decision-making information useful to other planners and
The literature contains no critical evaluation of automation projects. The
actual effects of computers on library staff and users should have been studied.
In absence of a comprehensive survey of library automation we cannot know
the actual situation in the country. The literature shows that there is still little
confidence about computers among Pakistani librarians. Computer illiteracy
may be one of the major causes of this, as library schools are not teaching
computer education properly. Another problem is the unavailability of literature
on library automation in local languages. A very small amount of literature has
been published in Urdu, insufficient for the students of library and information
science; there should also be some monographic literature in Urdu.
Looking toward the future
A few trends appear from an overview of the literature. According to Fehmeed
(1996), the information in traditional book form has been changed into
electronic form. The technology has affected human behaviour to a great
extent. Chishti (1994) says that information technology will continue to become
more powerful, pervasive, accessible, diversified and mobile. The world will
become a global village, and libraries will serve the information needs of remote
users in any part of the world via telecommunication networks and information
highways. Siddiqui (1992a) sees the future library as a virtual library rather
than a physical collection of books on shelves. This library will be made
possible with the help of computer technology. Akhtar (1990) says that people
will not visit libraries to have access to information resources. The owner of a
computer can have online connection to a databank and receive information at
his home on his television screen. In the future information age, demand for
information will increase. The information professionals of the future will be
“electronic librarians” and will play a different role than at present: they will be
librarians without libraries.
In Pakistan, although the pace of computer technology is slow, it has
achieved the attention of policy makers. Despite of a number of problems,
Pakistani libraries are going to use computer technology because it is becoming
cheaper. The Pakistan government has announced computers as one of its
priorities, and the telecommunication network has been made better and more
To fulfil the specific research needs of their clientele, specialist libraries will
continue their commitment to automation. Once the PLA Computer Training
Centres have been established and library schools have started computer
education, there will be more trained library professionals who will speed up
the automation process in libraries. The introduction of CD-ROM technology,
and particularly the availability of CD-ROM recording technology, will make
national databases and bibliographies possible. E-mail and the Internet will
become popular in libraries and thus library cooperation will take place, both
on a national and international scale. The sharing of resources is a key to the
reduction of overall computing costs. An additional benefit of cooperative
efforts will be the continued growth of the establishment of standards for
library computer technology which are, at present, not seen in Pakistan. The
growth in library software/hardware providers and automation consultants will
also increase the use of information technology in libraries.
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(Khalid Mahmood is a lecturer in the Department of Library and Information Science at the
University of the Punjab. He is the author of numerous articles in both Pakistani and
international professional journals, including Pakistan Library Bulletin, Library Review and
World Libraries. Address: Department of Library and Information Science, University of the
Punjab, Quaid-e-Azam Campus, Lahore, Pakistan. E-mail: email@example.com)