Loyal elderly readers need to be encouraged to come to libraries by equipping them with suitable technology, a British library consultant has suggested.
"The older people in your country and in my country still like to come to library though the number may be declining.
There is a huge opportunity. I think by encouraging them, we would be providing opportunities to make them feel they are needed," Tom Forrest, former Director of Cultural Services in Oxfordshire, said on the eve of his interaction with library experts of the country in New Delhi.
"Libraries should have mobile apps. You can read an e-book and access catalogues online. In fact physical books and digital versions should supplement each other and build a bridge between the two generations, both of whom should be engaged in active library movement," Forrest, who has worked in over 20 countries to impart knowledge on using technology to improve access to services and content, said.
Talking about the experiment to retain the old and loyal readers in different cities of the UK like Manchester, Forrest said, "Our motto is to make them feel they are needed. I have something to give through memory sessions, storytelling for children and likewise."
Noting that libraries have to be relevant to people in the 20-age group equally, Forrest said, "Libraries can't be seen in isolation from the places frequented by this generation like shopping malls and plexes and we have to tailor them to younger people as well. That remains the challenge."
Forrest, who was here on an invitation from the British Council to give a talk in Kolkata on UK Libraries on Tuesday and Wednesday, said, he had been hearing about death of books for years but that would never happen.
"I know the nostalgia tinged with books and classics which becomes apparent as you flip through the pages of a classic physically. I want some of that nostalgia captured digitally," he said, adding these issues would come up during his interaction with Indian public library experts, here and in New Delhi later.
Talking about his visit to the National Library Kolkata, Forrest said, "I was very impressed (the way) National Library organises its activities."
"I am told they have an agreement with the British Library to work together. Their chief executive is coming over here soon. The two institutions will collaborate in sharing skills.
There are many shareable documents with a shareable past between the two institutions," Forrest said.
Among the present generation of library readers in his country, he said there was a wide following for present day Indian origin writers like Vikram Seth, Jhumpa Lahiri and Amit Chowdhury.