Dr Neeraj Kumar Singh: A Resourceful Librarian
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh is presently working as a Deputy Librarian in A.C. Joshi Library, Panjab University, Chandigarh from 2007. Dr. Neeraj is a very hard-working, dedicated Goal-oriented and highly motivated librarian. He is an enthusiastic and resourceful professional and an asset to AC Joshi Library. Due to his caliber and performance excellence, he has been awarded the Prestigious Commonwealth Professional Fellowship two times
Dr. Neeraj is a prolific writer who penned down more than thirty research papers in the International/National peer-reviewed journals and conferences/seminars. Due to his expertise and knowledge, he has acted as a resource person in various national workshops/conferences/ training programs organized by various institutions. He is also teaching PGDLAN, BLIS courses at USOL, PU, Academic Counsellor of IGNOU regional center at Panjab University, Chandigarh.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: Please tell me something about your background.
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: I am the only son of Mr. Shambhu Prasad Singh. Born in Barman, Madhya Pradesh I had my early education there. My father was a landlord as well as a well-educated man. He was MA, M.Lib. from Dr. Harisingh Gour University, Sagar University. He worked as Librarian in SRTNES PG College, Barman for many years and later retired from the same college as Principal. My mother was a housewife. I have two sisters who are married and well settled, one in Delhi and the other in the US. My father was a great educationist and made sure that all his children were well educated and postgraduates (especially in Science).
My schooling, as well as graduation, was done from Barman. In 2001, I did my M.Sc. in Chemistry from Rani Durgawati University, Jabalpur. I did my B.Lib.Sc. in 2003 and M.Lib.Sc. in 2004 from Delhi University. I completed my Ph.D. on the topic “Radio Frequency Identification Technology Applications in Library and Information Centres: A case study of Northern India” in 2014 from Panjab University, Chandigarh. I joined Panjab University, Chandigarh as Assistant Librarian in 2007 and am now promoted to Deputy Librarian. My wife is a housewife and I have two sons.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: Despite doing M.Sc. (Chemistry), what made you decide to become a librarian?
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: I did M.Sc in Chemistry in the year 2001 but was not much interested in taking up a career in the field. I had some friends in Delhi who were preparing for competitive examinations. I told my father that I want to go to Delhi to try my luck. I shifted to Delhi in 2001 there I started preparing and appearing in various competitive exams of UPSC, Bank PO, etc. My father was keen that I should do a govt. job.
One of those days my roommate saw an advertisement for the Delhi University library science course. He also introduced me to the Librarian of Ramjas College, Delhi who inspired me to take admission to a library science course. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was also inspired by my father who was already a professional librarian. That set the course of my profession. I did B.Lib.Sc. and M.Lib.Sc. from Delhi University in 2003 and 2004 respectively. I cleared UGC NET in the first attempt in 2004 and entered the profession. This education in the field culminated 10 years later when I did my Ph.D. in 2014 from Panjab University, Chandigarh. However, learning is still continuing.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: Give a brief about your journey from Delhi to Chandigarh.
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: I started my career in the field of libraries in 2004 after my post-graduation in Library Science from Delhi University. My first experience was as a library trainee at India International Centre, New Delhi in 2004 for 2 months. Then I had a short stint as a temporary Library Assistant in the library of Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India, New Delhi. In 2005 I joined as Librarian in Awadh Public Charitable Trust affiliated with GGSIP (New Delhi) that has three institutions under its wing- one each of Physiotherapy, B.Ed. and IT. Here I gained a lot of experience as I set up a new library from scratch which was the central library catering to all the three institutions. I made the library fully computerized and digital. I worked here for 14 months. After this, I had short stints at various institutions like JIMS, New Delhi for 6 months, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Gurgaon for 3 months.
I got a good experience of working in different institutions but now I wanted a regular and steady job. I applied in Panjab University, Chandigarh in 2007 for Assistant Librarian opening, appeared for the interview, got selected and joined on 16th March 2007. It was a long journey but a satisfying one.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: What is your contribution to AC Joshi Library, Panjab University Chandigarh?
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: I joined the A.C. Joshi Library in 2007 and have been working here for the last 12 years. In these 12 years, I have seen a lot of changes in the library and have infact been a part of the growth of the library. I have worked in the Periodicals section for a long time. To regulate the budget and subscription of the print journals and later the e-resources was a part of my duty. Optimum and proper utilization of the budget, identifying the needs of the researchers and subscribing to the e-resources accordingly and making sure they are utilized to the maximum was my concern always. RFID technology was introduced in the library in the year2010. I was a member of the committee constituted by the Vice-Chancellor for implementing RFID technology in which I played a significant role. I have closely worked with the LMS vendors and was actively involved in the automation of the periodicals section using SLIM Library management software.
Another major project taken up was that of complete digitization of PU theses available in the A.C. Joshi Library in the year 2014. I was again a member of the Committee constituted by the Vice-Chancellor for this purpose. I was promoted to Deputy Librarian in the year 2019 and since then I have been looking after the Reader Services of the library. Active engagement with the readers and orienting them towards the library, getting their feedback to improve the services of the library, promoting the usage of e-resources, educating the research scholars about plagiarism and doing ethical research, etc. are my areas of work.
Not only in the library, but I also have been involved in the services of the university at large. I was appointed coordinator of the PU digitization project by the registrar. After the project has been completed all the official records of PU will be accessible through Intranet. I am the Nodal officer for URKUND antiplagiarism software for Panjab University and am helping teachers and research scholars regarding the creation of records and creating awareness for plagiarism.
I have designed and developed Panjab University Chemistry Portal which can be accessed through our library website (http://old.puchd.ac.in/library/chemistry.html) for which I was decorated with the prestigious Best service award 2009 presented by Vice-Chancellor, Panjab University. Again, in the year 2011, a portal on Handling of Hazardous Materials was designed by me for which Vice-chancellor presented me an award on the occasion of the Republic Day ceremony, 26 January 2011.
Other than my contribution to AC Joshi Library I would also like to highlight some of my professional achievements
- My first book “RFID for Libraries: a practical approach” published by the renowned Indian publisher Ess Ess Publications, New Delhi in 2019. The book in-depth deals with the application and implementation of RFID technology in libraries. As it is based on the lessons learned during the actual process of implementation, the book provides practical solutions to libraries that are planning to introduce the technology. It also describes NFC, the latest technology in the field. Overall, it shall be of use to the librarians in planning their budget and successfully completing the project to benefit their institutions.
- The Panjab University Coffee Table Book, in which I had a significant contribution, was released by Mr. Sunil Arora, Chief Election Commissioner of India, Ms. Mia Yen, Consul General of Canada In India, Prof Raj Kumar, Honourable, Vice-Chancellor, Panjab University, Prof. Shankarji Jha, Dean of University Instruction, PU, Prof Deepti Gupta, Dean of Alumni Relations, PU on the occasion of PU Annual Global Alumni Meet 2019. I had the honor of sharing the dais with the dignitaries.
- My research articles on Google Scholar have reached 130 citations.
- Recognizing my expertise and knowledge on the subject I has acted as a resource person in various national workshops/conferences/ training programmes organized by various institutions, i.e. CMC, Vellore, Bennet University, Greater Noida, NITTTR, Chandigarh, UGC Academic Staff College, PU, SPD-RUSA, Chandigarh, Zonal Institute of Education and training KVS, Chandigarh, Navodaya Leadership Institute, Chandigarh, Kurukshetra University, etc.
- I have also been teaching PGDLAN, BLIS courses at USOL, PU, and MLIS, PGDLAN courses at IGNOU regional center, Panjab University, Chandigarh since 2009.
- As a part of the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship Programme, I visited many academic, special and national Libraries across London, Manchester, Cambridge, and Scotland.
- I was invited in 2015 by the University of California, Santa Cruz, USA to present a paper in the International Conference on “E-learning and Innovative Pedagogies” from 2-3 Nov 2015.
- Drafted PU research journals Ethics policy from the recommendations of the RPC members which was approved by the Vice-Chancellor.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: You were awarded the Prestigious Commonwealth Professional Fellowship twice in 2012 and in 2017 at the University of East London, London, UK. Please share some of your experiences?
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: Commonwealth Professional Fellowships are offered by the CSC for citizens of developing Commonwealth countries. These fellowships are funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), to contribute to the UK’s international development aims and wider overseas interests, supporting excellence in UK higher education, and sustaining the principles of the Commonwealth. This fellowship had given me a lifetime opportunity, where I learned several novel things and also had the opportunity to meet leading library and information science professionals in the UK and discussed the challenges libraries are facing in the UK. The fellowship program developed my leadership & management skills in the implementation of new library technologies and improved me beyond my expectations. I am the only LIS professional in India who got this rare opportunity of having been selected for this fellowship twice i.e. in 2012 and again in 2017.
I have shared my experiences of 2012 fellowship at<https://neerajlib.wordpress.com/> and 2017 at<https://neerajcwfblog.wordpress.com/workshops/>
I would like all those interested in knowing my experiences at UK Fellowship to visit my blog where I have shared all day to day my experiences.
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The ECDL program defines the skills and competencies necessary to use a computer and common computer applications. It offers a wide range of modules including Computer Essentials, Word Processing, and IT Security. Candidates take tests in the modules which are most relevant to their educational and professional requirements, thereby creating their ECDL Profile. Whether in school, university or in the workplace, ECDL offers the skills you need to succeed.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: Give some details of the Chemistry Portal designed and developed by you.
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: Providing the right information to the right user at the right time is a major challenge for libraries. In recent years, digital resources are growing and developing very fast creating challenges in information searching, service provision, and resource discovery. Today’s user cannot efficiently find the information they need from resources on various platforms and from different vendors. They do not know how to access full-text articles from various online databases. They complain that they often feel lost among disparate resource lists and guides. Universities and other research organizations are providing significant financial support to libraries. A large proportion of this is going into the subscription of thousands of online resources each year, such as online databases, e-journals, and e-books, but their usage is relatively low. Users do understand the reliability and quality of library resources and prefer to use them only if they can find them. However, the complexity of information structures and the poor design of many library web sites make it difficult for users to discover this wealth of resources. Most university students say that they use the internet for information searching more than the library, yet university teachers notice that the students’ work has deteriorated in quality with the use of the web and librarians note that the students unknowingly bypass important sources available to them through academic libraries.
To give a bird’s eye view of various resources in the field of chemistry, a single-window service was conceptualized in the form of a chemistry portal. It aims to provide information related to chemistry and its allied subjects, through a single user interface and to access a wide variety of electronic resources in the field subscribed to by the university library and also other scholarly information sources that are available in full text on the web. Searching and filtering the sources available on the web and then judging what will prove useful to chemistry students was, of course, a very tedious job. Interviews were conducted with the faculty members and the students of the chemistry department at Panjab University, Chandigarh (India). After discussions with them, it was observed that most of the users are not using the online resources that are being subscribed to by the university library and they are also not aware of the scholarly information available on the internet, which is published by reputable organizations, universities, publishers, etc. After the interviews, the following observations were made:
- the computer literacy level of these academics is medium to high;
- their internet/web literacy level is low to medium;
- they are mostly using e-mail and web search engines including Yahoo! and Google;
- the university library’s online resources are not well known; and
- students do not know how to access e-resources.
Due to this and to fill up the gap between information providers and information users a well-structured Chemistry Portal was designed by me (www.library.puchd.ac.in/chemistry.html), which was nominated for the PCQUEST best information technology implementation award in 2009.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: Share your involvement for the module on Reference Management Software’s in the online MOOCs course available through SWAYAM, MHRD portal.
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: I have prepared and presented one module on Reference Management Software’s in the online MOOCs course in Pedagogical Innovations & Research Methodology prepared by Guru Jambheswar University of Science and Technology, Hisar which is available through SWAYAM, MHRD portal.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: Do you think students pursuing a degree through correspondence can stand equivalent to the students doing regular studies? I mean can they deliver the same.
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: In my view, the correspondence courses are self-learning courses and if the student is dedicated and motivated in his/her field, he/she can achieve the same height as a regular student. In the long run and once they enter the profession, it is knowledge and not the degree that matters. Given the right opportunity, they can perform equally well in the practical field.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: Give your views on the role of libraries in the rankings of higher institutions.
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: While it is difficult to measure the value academic library brings in institutional rankings, it is clear that the library plays an important role in both research and teaching. In the ranking there is no specific parameter which gives weightage to the libraries, however, libraries can play a very important role in influencing the ranking of any institution. Here are some ways how libraries today make a difference to the community they serve. The academic library is a reflection of the level of the institution it serves, it can enhance the ranking of the institution by encouraging more quality research, enhancing the institution’s academic reputation, and increase research needs awareness. The library has a very significant role in the ranking of academic institutions because all the academic activities of institutions are directly or indirectly related to the library. It is a pity that the quality of the academic library is not considered for the institutional ranking. The iconographic power of a college or university library expresses a purpose not just to collect, but also to organize, preserve, and make knowledge accessible.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: Do you think plagiarism is really a serious offense and paraphrasing is not as there is no way to check the paraphrasing?
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: I am of the view that Paraphrasing without crediting the original author is considered plagiarism and therefore has serious consequences. To avoid plagiarism, one must always cite the source in the correct citation format; otherwise, you are presenting something as your own work, even though it’s not. You should use just an idea but express it with your own words and format. However, if you do credit the original author correctly using an in-text citation or footnote citation and include the full source in the reference list, then you do not commit plagiarism. Plagramme.com is an advanced plagiarism software that can recognize paraphrased plagiarism. Once you enter your text, you will be able to see instant plagiarism check results. Lines that appear to be copied from another text as well as paraphrased ones will be highlighted.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: Tell us what you feel are your biggest strengths and your biggest weaknesses.
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: I think my biggest strength is being focused on. Once I am convinced, I am totally focused on the task at hand. I try to gather all the relevant information from all possible sources and after assessing the pros and cons I like to tackle the task. The latest developments in the field of LIS and Information Technology fascinate me. I like to keep up to date on this front.
My biggest weakness is not being able to deal with dual personality persons. Also, I don’t like people not committed to their jobs and who do not understand easily.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: Name five adjectives that describe yourself.
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: Focused, Committed, Passionate, Progressive, Self-made
Dr. Preeti Sharda: What are your professional goals? Where do you see yourself in five years?
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: My professional goal is to be at a position in the profession where I can implement my progressive ideas, the ideas that can benefit the library as well as the institution at large. In five years I would like to see myself in a position of control and at the topmost position in the profession. There is so much to be done for the profession and libraries that if not started soon the libraries will lag behind in many areas.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: I personally know you since 2007 and always seen a serious side of your personality, do Dr. Neeraj K Singh has a funny side also?
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: If you meet me professionally you shall always see my serious side. I am very professional in my profession. I open up only in my friends’ circle and we have a lot of fun light moments together. If you want to see my funny side you shall have to enter my friends’ circle which is not easy. I go every morning to play Badminton with my friends where we have a lot of fun and that invigorates me for the serious business of the rest of the day.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: Your favorite pass time…….
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: I like watching Tik Tok videos, listening to music and watching cricket and movies. I also like spending time with my kids which energizes me a lot.
Dr. Preeti Sharda: Your final comments……
Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh: I would like to share that though I did not plan to enter the profession initially, once I joined the profession I am totally dedicated to it. I find there is a lot of scope in librarianship. The librarians can expand their operations and can associate with many other professions. The profession of librarianship is never going to die, we just need to upgrade and diversify.
(It was a great honor to take an interview with a dedicated, very humble and a very hardworking professional like Dr. Neeraj Kumar Singh. Thank you so much, Dr. Neeraj, for sparing time from your busy schedule. This interview can also be read at https://indialibrarians.blogspot.com/)