Little Dream

Almost all enterprises big or small, academic and research or industry have some sort of information support services. These may range from mere supply of newspapers at the manager's desk to sophisticated information services from organized library holdings or computerized management information systems at various hierarchical levels.

In some enterprises, the information unit is a separately identifiable entity. And in others, it is under the administration or public relations departments. Often, the information services are a part of the broad-based computer activities within an organization.

In this context, it may be worthwhile to recall the status of computer facilities in the yesteryears when these were mostly appendages to financial accounting activities. The systems were usually housed in expensive glass cases and out of bounds for normal users. In the present scenario, access to computers is widely distributed and their use is intrinsically integrated with the general run. The dominant role of so-called EDP managers has given way to a wider base of computer literates who can run the custom-made applications without the assistance of any formally trained programmers. In effect, we can say that computer based activities have become internalized within the mainstream activities.

Taking one from the pattern of evolution of computer usage, one would wonder whether the information activities also adopt the same trend. Say, a library runs without a librarian and that all by themselves navigate and locate information or information sources on a network, setting the process of internalization of information seeking and consumption.

The days may not be far when such a situation will also obtain. Availability of digitized book materials, periodicals, secondary databases on CD-ROM and online hosts; accessibility of library catalogs on local library networks and on Internet; publishing on networks, full text document delivery through e-mail, interpersonal communication through video-conferencing technology, growth of easy-to-use videotex, teletext and audiotex system and the like—though now in trickles would potentially create waves in the near future.

Just think of it! World Book Fairs like the one scheduled in New Delhi, February 1996, would be held not in plush Pragati Maidans but World Wide through online & video conferencing in close confines of the office and residence of information consumers!

- A. Lahiri