The status of library
automation in Pakistan
Khalid Mahmood Malik
Department of Library Science, University of the Punjab, Lahore,
Because of its outstanding efficiency, performance and ability to handle large
volumes of documents, the computer is gaining popularity in the field of
librarianship and information services. Many library and information routines
are being performed proficiently by computers. The computer has proved its
success in the fields of library acquisition, cataloguing, classification,
circulation, serials control, and information storage and retrieval activities.
Many new services like SDI and current contents service have been initiated
with the help of the computer.
Library automation has become a burning issue, with pros and cons, among
librarians throughout the world. We cannot mention present library literature
or any conference without a reference to library automation.
The history of library automation is not a long one. It dates back to the 1950s
and 1960s in America and Europe. In Pakistan, library automation was
introduced in the 1980s and a number of libraries were computerized during or
after 1987. The library literature in Pakistan does not provide much
information about the current status of library automation in the country,
although a few articles have been published. In this regard, our alumni Mumtaz
Ali Anwar, Sajjad-ur-Rehman and Abdus Sattar have presented an introduction
and basic guidelines for librarians wishing to automate their libraries, with
special reference to Pakistan[1-3]. Bushra Riaz, in her article, has discussed the
problems faced by library automation in the country. In addition, other
librarians have narrated their personal experiences in their individual libraries
in different issues of the PULSAA and PLA newsletters.
Library automation has multifarious aspects to be discussed but this study
is limited to the status of library software and library automation training in
What is software? Basically, software is the program that runs the computer to
produce the required results. It is, in fact, the most important component of the
automation process. Someone said, “A computer without software is similar to a
man without his brain, or a library with neither books nor librarians”.
Therefore, on principle, the selection of software comes before hardware. When
Library Review, Vol. 45 No. 6,
1996, pp. 36-42 © MCB University
This paper was presented at a seminar on “Changing Trends in Information Handling” at the
American Centre, Lahore, 31 October 1994.
we talk about library software, we mean the software needed for library
housekeeping routines and information retrieval services.
Hundreds of library packages have been developed and run successfully in
advanced countries and there are many directories and other tools available that
help librarians to select suitable software for their libraries. But the situation in
Pakistan is disappointing. Very few attempts have been made in the country.
The question is, what are the hurdles and obstacles to a progressive situation
and how can these hurdles be removed? It is an accepted fact that we are an
under-developed nation without necessary resources. With meagre budgets, our
libraries cannot afford the cost of library automation as a whole. With only 26
per cent literacy, there is a lack of institutions for research and, because of our
poor education system, students and teachers do not consider the library a
necessity. Our librarians are not trained in library automation as library schools
in our country do not prepare their students for this challenge. Some schools
have included the subject of library automation in their syllabi but there is no
facility for practical knowledge of computerization. Because of computer
illiteracy, librarians hesitate to automate their libraries and, if they have to do
so, they cannot play an active role in the automation process. People do not
appreciate the requisites of library automation like system analysis,
consultancy, staff training and equipment maintenance. Another problem is the
growing trend of software piracy in the country. No software developed abroad
is suitable for our libraries. Libraries that have been automated in the country
have worked individually without having the benefit of the others’ experiences.
As standard library software is non-existent in Pakistan, library co-operation,
which is one of the remarkable achievements of automation, is becoming extinct
with the passage of time.
Pakistani libraries mostly use microcomputers. So, it will be useful to
introduce briefly some database management systems for microcomputers
being used in the country.
A number of libraries in Pakistan have developed their in-house library
databases using dBase: dBase III+ (introduced in 1985) and dBase IV (released
in 1989) are mostly being used. It provides an opportunity for relational
databases, utilizes less free memory, offers keyboard macros and password
protection and can be run on local area network. As dBase is a standard
database management system and is not meant especially for libraries, one
cannot develop an application without proper understanding and training. The
fixed length field is also a problem for the textual retrieval most libraries
need. Version 1.5 of dBase IV (released in 1992) costs about $800.
Following dBase, Foxpro is making inroads in Pakistani libraries. It is an
application development dBase-compatible relational database package. It
offers more facilities than dBase and is characterized by quick performance.
Application basics are very easy to acquire, but more complex development
requires a great deal of time to learn. Version 2.0 (released in 1991) costs about
$800[5, pp. 166-7].
INMAGIC is used successfully in Lahore University of Management Sciences
(LUMS), NWFP Agricultural University, Peshawar and some other agricultural
libraries in the country. The software was originally developed for
minicomputers in 1980. Since 1983 it has been available for use with IBM PC
and compatible machines.
The package is powerful, flexible and relatively easy to use. Data are stored
in variable length fields and each field may be repeated, which fulfils
requirements for multiple authors, subjects, etc. in a bibliographic database.
Fields may be indexed by keywords, term or both for quicker and easier
Boolean operators (and, or, not) may be used to broaden or narrow the
search. Comparison operators (greater than, lesser than, equal to) may be used
in term searches. Searches may be stored and later recalled or modified.
INMAGIC offers output of search results on screen, to the printer or to an ASCII
file on disk. Field-wise sorting and subsorting are available.
It can design a database of up to 75 fields, of which 50 fields can be indexed.
Its manual is clearly written, contains many examples and is well indexed. On-
line tutorial is also available[7,8]. Field, record, and database size in INMAGIC
are unlimited. A first copy of version 8.0 of INMAGIC PLUS (released in 1992)
costs about $1,250[5, pp. 167-8]. This software is very suitable for Pakistani
libraries but it is expensive and our libraries may not be able to afford it.
A number of libraries in Pakistan are working on CDS/ISIS. The range of ISIS
users includes all types of libraries. ISIS was developed by UNESCO and is
being distributed free of charge. More than 5,000 libraries are licensed users
worldwide. It is a non-numeric database specially designed for bibliographic
records, and is multilingual. A database can hold 16 million records. It provides
variable length fields, repeatable fields, and sub-fields. It has powerful indexing
and searching techniques. It provides a stopword file. Advanced programming
can be done in the PASCAL language. Data can be exchanged according to
international standard ISO 2709. It can be run on local area networks. Well
elaborated documentation is available. Its latest version 3.07 was released in
December 1993. Although CDS/ISIS cannot perform all housekeeping
operations easily, its use is rapidly increasing in the country. Various journals
publish regular columns on the development in CDS/ISIS. Five Pakistan
Library Association computer training centres offer regular courses on
CDS/ISIS and hundreds of librarians have become trained users.
MINISIS can presently be used only on minicomputers but following the release
of its PC-based microcomputer version, which was expected in November 1994,
it will be able to satisfy all automation demands of our libraries. MINISIS,
distributed by the International Development Research Centre, Canada, is
currently being used in about 350 institutions in the world; the PC version of
MINISIS, named version H, will be issued in English, French, Spanish, Chinese
and Arabic languages. The integrated library system developed by MINISIS
will include library accounting, acquisitions, cataloguing, online public access
catalogue (OPAC), circulation, serials control and interlibrary loan. MARC will
be followed in cataloguing[10,11].
Now some information about some library applications developed in
Developed by Silicon Systems Ltd, Kitabdar is currently being used in five
libraries in Lahore. Based on PASCAL, it is the first Urdu library software in
Pakistan. It is specially designed for research and reference libraries. It can mix
both Urdu and English in the same text field. Sorting is fast. It provides both
speedy and complete search on 28 different fields. Though not based on any
standard format, it is good for cataloguing. Acquisition and circulation
functions are not properly designed. Its LAN version is also available.
Pak Library Software
Pak Book Corporation developed a package for medium-sized libraries. Using
Foxbase version 2.0 the software was issued in 1992. The following functions
were included in the package:
• make searches on books from different angles;
• issue/receipt of books to/from members;
• issue reminders to members;
• make entries for new books;
• enlist new members;
• give the status of a book;
• give the individual records of members;
• reserve a particular book for a member;
• keep a record of periodicals.
Pak Library Software was not accepted by the librarians, so it has been
The Library Automation and Management Program has been developed by
The Netherlands Library Development Project-Pakistan (NLDP-P), with the
collaboration of the Pakistan Library Association (PLA). It has been designed
specially for Pakistani libraries. LAMP was developed entirely in CDS/ISIS
with the help of PASCAL. It can handle the following library housekeeping
•Acquisition: budget control, ordering routines, payments record.
•Cataloguing: bibliographic information, printing cards, printing
bibliographies, searching through various keys.
•Circulation: borrowers’ records, check-in and check-out of items,
reservations, fines calculation, SDI.
•Serials control: acquisition and cataloguing of serials, holding list.
•Authority files: publishers, subjects and name authorities for both serials
•Management reports: statistical reports for acquisition, cataloguing and
•Utilities: data exchange, spell check, duplication check.
The first version of LAMP is currently being used in more than 25 libraries in
the country including six legislative libraries of the Senate and national and
provincial assemblies. After receiving feedback from library professionals,
development of LAMP version 2 has been started.
Library automation training in Pakistan
The most important people in making library computerization successful are
librarians. They know their job well and should be most qualified to decide
which function should or should not be computerized. It must be realized that
librarians will not be able to make any use of computer equipment until they are
provided with the know-how required to use it. So, before providing the
equipment, it is necessary to make training arrangements for the professional
development of librarians.
In the first two or three years of library automation in Pakistan, a few
librarians have been able to develop an acquaintance with the computer either
through training abroad or by working with foreign consultants. Self-education
was another method used by a small minority.
There are six library schools in Pakistan which offer postgraduate courses on
library and information science on a regular basis. It is their duty to keep their
syllabi up to date with changing concepts in the profession. With regard to
library automation training, the condition of library schools in the country is
disappointing. The University Grants Commission (UGC) presented a revised
curriculum in 1991 but unfortunately no library school implemented it. Another
problem is that there are not adequate hardware facilities for training the
students. The school at Karachi was first to have a computer, followed by the
school at Peshawar. Punjab University succeeded in having the maximum
number of four computers. NLDP also donated one computer to each library
school last year, but the existing facility is still insufficient. Now the BCCInfaq,
an NGO, has offered the six library schools a complete computer lab with 11
IBM PCs and other accessories. Following this achievement, we hope for a
healthier situation in library schools.
With the emergence of library automation in the country, professional library
associations showed an immediate response and took it as a challenge. After its
revival, PULSAA arranged the first short course on the use of microcomputers
in libraries in August 1989. The participants evaluated the course as excellent.
PULSAA also arranged two other courses in 1990 and 1993 in which training
on CDS/ISIS was emphasized.
The PLA (Headquarters) arranged a ten-day workshop on “Computer
introduction, application and data management in libraries” in October 1991 at
Librarians at Multan have also conducted a course with the sponsorship of
NLDP. Fifteen librarians were trained in DOS and Wordperfect.
PLA computer training centres
With the help of NLDP, the Pakistan Library Association has established five
permanent computer training centres at Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar
and Quetta. The cases for Hyderabad and Bahawalpur are under consideration.
The first PLA centre started functioning in November 1992 at Lahore. By the
end of June 1994, PLA centres in the country had trained 500 librarians and
other people in library automation. The courses include “Fundamentals of
computers”, “Disk operating system (DOS)”, “Wordprocessing using MS Word
and Wordperfect”, “Spreadsheet using Lotus and Quatro Pro”, “Database
management using dBase”, and “Library automation using CDS/ISIS and
LAMP”. A special one-month course was also designed with the help of
USIS at all the centres. The course was conducted by Dr Nelson, a library
automation expert from the USA. At Lahore, to make students well-versed in a
working automated environment, visits to automated libraries in the city have
also been made an integral part of the courses.
In conclusion, it might be stated that library automation is in its infancy in
Pakistan. No serious efforts have been made in the field of library software in a
proper manner. With only six or seven years’ experience in library automation,
very few people have been trained well in library computerization. There is a
lack of resourceful persons in the country. It is the duty of our professional
associations and library schools to solve the problems of library software and
its appropriate training in the country. PLA computer centres must play an
important role in the selection and development of suitable library software for
our local needs. A MARC format for Pakistan should be developed. None of this
can be done without the help of government. The Government should aid
libraries and supervise their struggles for library automation.
1. Anwar, M.A., “Use of information technology in the libraries of Pakistan”, Challenges in
Automating the Library Services, Department of Library & Information Science,
University of Peshawar, 1993, pp. 3-14.
2. ur-Rehman, S., “Library automation in Pakistan: myths and realities”, Challenges in
Automating the Library Services, Department of Library & Information Science,
University of Peshawar, 1993, pp. 15-26.
3. Sattar, A. and ur-Rehman, S., “Assessment of Pakistan Library Information Management
System (PLIMS)”, Pakistan Library Bulletin, Vol. 23 Nos. 2-3, June-September 1992,
4. Riaz, B.A., “Library automation problems in Pakistan”, Challenges in Automating the
Library Services, Department of Library & Information Science, University of Peshawar,
1993, pp. 27-34.
5. Online Inc.’s Top 500 Library Microcomputer Software Application Programs, Eight Bit
Books, Wilton, CT, 1993, pp. 162-3.
6. Moore, C., “Microcomputer software for library and information work”, Encyclopedia of
Library and Information Science, Vol. 48, pp. 283-302.
7. Attaullah, “Library automation experiences of the NWFP Agricultural University,
Peshawar”, Hallmarks of Library and Information Services in Pakistan, Punjab University
Library Science Alumni Association, Lahore, 1993, pp. 207-25.
8. Lundeen. G. and Tenopir, C., “Microcomputer-based library catalog software”,
Microcomputers for Information Management, Vol. 1 No. 3, September 1984, pp. 215-28.
9. UNESCO, Mini-Micro CDS/ISIS Reference Manual (version 2.3), UNESCO, Paris, 1989.
10. International Development Research Centre, MINISIS Version H: Overview Document,
IDRC, Ottawa, 1991.
11. International Development Research Centre, MINISIS Integrated Library System:
Overview, IDRC, Ottawa, undated.
12. Silicon Systems, Kitabdar Version 1.56: User’s Manual, Silicon Systems, Lahore, 1989.
13. Pak Book Corporation, Pak Library Software, Pak Book Corporation, 1992.
14. Farrukh, S., Ahmad, N. and ur. Rehman, M., “LAMP, library automation & management
program: users’ manual”, Netherlands Library Development Project, unpublished.
15. Rehman, H., “Problems and prospects of introducing library automation in curriculum”,
Challenges in Automating the Library Services, Department of Library & Information
Science, University of Peshawar, 1993, pp. 58-70.
16. Netherlands Library Development Project Pakistan: Semi Annual Progress Report No. 6,
Period January-June 1994, International Consultancies SOCRATES, Islamabad, 10 July
17. PLA Computer Training Centre:Handbook, The Centre, Lahore, undated.