How publishers and libraries can create a reading culture

FICCI seminar – Role of the librarian as a reading specialist

(L-R) Vikrant Rana, partner at SS Rana & Co; Mugdha Sinha, joint secretary, Union ministry of culture; Neeraj Jain, chair, FICCI Publishing Committee and managing director, Scholastic India; and Sumeet Gupta, assistant secretary general, FICCI. Photo IPP

The joint role of publishers and libraries in creating literacy and a reading culture in India was the focal point of a FICCI seminar held at the FICCI premises in New Delhi on 15 February 2024.

The inaugural session of the seminar had Neeraj Jain, chair, FICCI Publishing Committee and managing director, Scholastic India, highlighting the important role of the librarian as a reading specialist, who can guide children on the kind of books they can read depending on their interest and motivation.

Jain said publishers can play a role in creating books per what the audience wants. He talked about the importance of providing children the right environment to read while giving them the freedom to choose the book(s) that they desire to read.

The second edition of the FICCI-SS Rana & Co report – Publishers’ Law Book was released by Mugdha Sinha, joint secretary, Union ministry of culture; Vikrant Rana, partner at SS Rana & Co; Neeraj Jain; and Sumeet Gupta, assistant secretary general, FICCI.

Rana gave the audience an overview of the report, which covers the challenges faced by the Indian publishing industry, infringement of copyright and rights of authors as well as publishers. He said the courts in India are taking prompt action on cases related to copyright infringement in the publishing industry.

This was followed by Mugdha Sinha, joint secretary, Union ministry of culture, delving into the tripartite relationship between the reader, the writer and the publishing house. She said the National Library in Kolkata has been given the task of archiving memory of all intellectual rights in the country. The publisher should, thus, assist the library in the ‘acquisition and conservation of all significant printed materials produced in the country’ by sending it printed copies of every book published by them.

Sinha talked about the transformation of libraries and reading rooms from places of congregation to co-working spaces in the modern era. She said that the vast collection of multilingual books present in Indian libraries is open to translations by publishing houses.

Sinha took the example of Aleph Book Company in bringing out its Greatest Stories Ever Told collection which includes translated short story collections in English from Malayalam, Punjabi, Marathi, Goan (Konkani), Telugu, Kashmiri; Gujarati, Assamese, Tamil, Hindi, Odia, Urdu, Bengali, etc.

She lauded the efforts of the publishing house in making efforts to assign bilingual translators and editors to search for some of the most appealing stories in regional languages and translate them into English to make them accessible to the majority of the reading population, both Indian and international.

She made several relevant suggestions at the seminar including holding book fairs and literature festivals at libraries, creating a directory of Indian libraries, creating audiobooks to add to the braille books for visually impaired readers, and holding literary residencies in libraries.

Mugdha Sinha also talked about Amar Chitra Katha‘s comic A Day at the Museum showcased at the International Museum Expo, which highlights the role of curators, conservationists and other people associated with museums in generating interest in museums in children.

Sinha’s talk was followed by a panel discussion on the twin role of publishers and libraries in creating a reading culture among the public. Ulla Wester, head of library services, Goethe-Institut at Max Mueller Bhavan; Prashant Pathak, publisher, Wonder House Books; Mridula Koshy, community organizer, The Community Library Project; and Himanshu Giri, CEO, Pratham Books participated in the panel which delved on purchasing systems for books in libraries, contribution of readers to free libraries, inclusive collaborations between publishers and libraries, reading gap after the Covid-19 pandemic, the role of parents in fostering reading habits among children and evaluation parameters for reading among children.

The session was moderated by Subrahmanian Seshadri, managing partner, Overleaf Books LLP, who suggested publishers donate specimen copies, promotion copies and review copies of books to free libraries.

The second panel of the day discussed read and publish agreements, and the role of libraries to support Open Access Publishing. Ajay Pratap Singh, business head – South Asia, Academic Publishing Cup was the moderator of the panel and talked about the role of the library as a bridge between the publisher and the referencer for academic research.

Panelists Shweta Bhagat, marketing & communications-India lead, Royal Society of Chemistry; Prashant Mishra, managing director, BMJ; and Shilpi Mehta Nanda, founder and managing partner, Zeal Attorneys raised relevant points on the role of libraries as a gatekeeper in academic research, read and publish agreements and retention of copyright by authors in Open Access Publishing.

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