Monday, May 17, 2021

Back in British Council Library

The books and magazines borrowed from the British Library, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, have been a constant companion ever since my father got me a membership there, after my tenth grade.

Image courtesy: Pixabay
As I moved to cities like Bhopal, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad and then Bangalore, where I am now, I transferred the membership.

Meanwhile, in 2008, the library in Thiruvananthapuram and many other cities shut down following a paucity of funds. There were some hopes that the one in Kerala would be revived. But the efforts didn't fructify.

BRITISH LIBRARY, BANGALORE

My father and I regularly used to visit the library here to sit and read for some time as well as borrow books. When it became difficult for my father to travel owing to old age, I alone went and borrowed books. 

Then, gradually -- around 10 years ago -- my visits too stopped for various reasons. One, time constraints owing to the heavy load of office work. 

Two, the range of books in the library began to dwindle as the centre focused more on students aiming to appear for various English language examinations like IELTS (International English Language Testing System). A good IELTS score is mandatory to take up courses in countries like Britain, Australia, New Zealand etc.

And thereby my membership expired.  

DIGITAL MEMBERSHIP

Recently, while scrolling through my Facebook timeline, I saw an advertisement of the British Council Library's digital membership. 

In no time I landed on this page and without any second thoughts I signed up for a membership. Annual fee: Rs 1,800.

I immediately received an email acknowledging the receipt of payment. It was followed by another mail mentioning my membership/card number and a link that took me to the library website.

In August of last year, British Council Library in 16 countries including India tied up with MyLOFT, a digital library platform.  

The email had also mentioned that I would soon receive an email from MyLOFT with instructions on setting up my digital library. Owing to some technical issues, I didn't get the email even after waiting for a few days. 

LIBBY

Quite impatient, I searched the British Council website to see how I can borrow books and magazines. It took me to the website of Overdrive, a Cleveland, Ohio-based company that distributes digital magazines, books and movies. 

One can access the Overdrive resources using a library card membership. I searched for "British Council", chose India, and it took me to the library website, where I entered my credentials.

However, to borrow and read books one has to either download the Libby app or go to the Libby website. It was done without any problems. 

And there I was back in the British Library. I felt so good browsing books and magazines. I couldn't find newspapers though. That's okay.

Strangely, I can keep a magazine for 21 days, but I can keep a book only for 7 days. Normally, I won't be able to finish a book that fast. I am not sure how many times I can extend the due date. I have to figure that out.

Currently, I am reading a historical novel Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris. It's set in the early 1930s in depression-hit America, and one of the main characters is Ellis Reed, a newspaper journalist-photographer.

There are lots of good magazines - Time, Newsweek, Guardian Weekly, Readers Digest (various continent-specific editions), New Scientist, India Today etc. 

MYLOFT

A few days later, after reaching out to the library's customer service, I got a mail from MyLOFT. The digital library setting up process was a bit long-winded but managed to do it. 

The app is a bit more complicated than Libby, probably because it has access to a lot more resources of the library than Libby, because of the direct partnership both have. Unlike on Libby, here I can access IELTS material, research journals, watch movies etc as well. 

MyLOFT takes me to Press Reader where I can access thousands of newspapers from around the world. That was amazing! However, I am unable to access the Press Reader app via the British Library membership credentials. Reading the papers on the web wasn't a smooth experience.

So far so good. Unlike earlier, when I used to visit the library once or twice a month, now I am in the library even multiple times a day!

23 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    that sounds like a good time-filler! My father was a fan of online library access. For myself, I can barely find the time to read what I have on my own shelves, it would be far too distracting to enter those particular doors!!! YAM xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Yamini - I too don't find much time to read books. But I think at least a few pages a day better than nothing!

      Delete
  2. I used to love visiting the BL in Hyderabad and Mumbai. Then Mumbai went online and it didn't quite work out for us at the time. At the start of the lockdown, last year, I signed up for online access in Hyderabad. But somehow I wasn't really able to use it at all. Will skip it this year and try again next year. Glad you're enjoying your membership.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Corinne - The British Library website interface needs a bit of tweaking in order to make the access to the digital resources easier. One needs to click on a number of links to find out how one can borrow books. Hopefully, they are working on it, and it'll get better.

      Delete
  3. Thank you for sharing the image of you and your father reading together. Those must be precious memories. I'm sorry funding has created closures. One tax increase we never argue against is for our public libraries. In fact, membership is free (!) and now I'll have to see if our local branch has reopened its doors. I haven't been inside one in years but the cool, quiet interior and smell of all those tomes brings back my own memories. Whether at school or the community facility a few blocks from home, libraries were my childhood refuge.

    On that note, I am delighted that you gained access via an Ohio based company. I grew up not far from Cleveland. :) Happy Reading!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Darla - Yes, my father who was a Chemistry teacher, had a profound influence on me.

      Since the British Library is not an entirely Indian establishment, I doubt if it gets any subsidy or funding from the local state government or corporation. And any funds from their head quarters in the UK might also be dwindling. Even the renowned BBC has been facing fund crunch.

      However, there are many local libraries run by municipalities, corporations and state governments. They are state funded and are either free to use or the fee is very minimal.

      Delete
    2. Oh, silly me. That makes sense. Heh...

      And I'm glad you had such a good role model. :) I really enjoy our interactions and imagine your father must have been very proud of you.

      Delete
  4. I like to read digital books for my job, and digital newspapers too. But for novel, I like paper books 😉. Great to have a huge virtual library 👍

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good for you for getting a digital membership! Aren't libraries wonderful? I think it's weird they can't give you longer on the books than seven days when they give you three whole weeks for the magazines.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I do love digital libraries. It is hard to get to a physical location sometimes, so it's nice to be able to browse via your own computer. Sorry it was such a pain to get it set up, though.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your new admission to the Library. It is interesting to know what one must do to join out renew membership.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Katie - Thank you. British Library has a good collection of books and magazines.

      Delete
  8. During this covid condition, digital libraries are the best.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Pradeep - I'm a great lover of Overdrive and the online library system - especially when our local library locked down during covid. I've also discovered an online free download site for novels and have been converted to reading my Kindle rather than real books. I may make it back to my "real" library sometime, but I'm in no great rush.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Leanne - I am too quite comfortable with Kindle and other digital versions. When I miss the physical book, I pick up one and read. :-)

      Delete
  10. Oh, I had a membership years ago. But it was too far from my home. The elibrary didn't work for me back then, and I let it go. I read my first Christie and Wodehouse books by borrowing from British Library.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rekha - A digital library solves the problem of long commute.

      Delete
  11. I can't imagine not having a good library. I rarely have the time to complete a book, but I still go through the motions (both in the building and on Libby). I think you can keep renewing on Libby until someone else places a request for it. That was my experience. I had to give it up and place a request on it to finish it when I was ready. Seven days is definitely not enough for a busy, slow reader like me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Steph - Thanks you for stopping by and for your comments. If I can extend the date by a week or two, that will be great. Like you, I too take time to finish reading a book. Not at all a fast reader.

      Delete
  12. Hi Pradeep - well done for persevering ... I think I'm becoming 'very old' as I can't be bothered with apps ... !!! Sad but true ... I still hope to visit our library for the odd thing I want to read in a newspaper, or magazine ... otherwise I don't worry and work round whatever it is I want to know.
    I'm not sure what our parameters are for borrowing from the library in these Covid times ... but I've plenty to read here ...
    I'm glad the British Council at least have one place in existence and are tying up with other organisations for the on-line services.
    Stay safe ... cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  13. Libraries have evolved and it's good that you have reconnected with an institution that goes back to your childhood. I still enjoy spending an hour or two in our local library (not possible right now due to COVID) poring over the books. It's a simple pleasure, but one of life's greatest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi David - Thanks for stopping by. Indeed, it's a great feeling to be with books. As of now, I am thoroughly enjoying the company of newspapers and magazines from world over, and books.

      Delete
    2. Very Interesting Read
      For a generation that has seen/ felt how a physical library looks - digital form is a weclome structure to adapt.
      And it worth adapting-given the volume of books we can access.
      But for next gen- i m really hoping they 1st get use to holding a book / feeling the pages/ making trips to local Library facilities- before they move to Digital format.

      Delete