At your fingertips: ICU central library digitises database

Published: April 9, 2015
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Established in 1913, the building has two big halls and nine adjacent rooms. PHOTO: ASAD ZIA/EXPRESS

Established in 1913, the building has two big halls and nine adjacent rooms. PHOTO: ASAD ZIA/EXPRESS

Established in 1913, the building has two big halls and nine adjacent rooms. PHOTO: ASAD ZIA/EXPRESS Established in 1913, the building has two big halls and nine adjacent rooms. PHOTO: ASAD ZIA/EXPRESS Established in 1913, the building has two big halls and nine adjacent rooms. PHOTO: ASAD ZIA/EXPRESS
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Islamia College University has created a digital database which students can use to check which book or resource is currently available at the library.

While that certainly makes it easy for students to look for reference material and books, the ICU is also slowly digitising its treasure trove of books and manuscripts, currently housed at the central library. With 1,000 books done and 89,000 more to go, plus another 1,261 manuscripts, ICU aims for its students to only be a click away from the century-old library’s resources.

The central library is among the oldest in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and one of the university’s greatest assets. Established in 1913, the building has two big halls and nine adjacent rooms. One of the halls and four rooms were added in 1972.

ICU Librarian Tehseenullah Khan says the library will be the first ever in the province to scan thousands of rare books and make them available with full text. He says once the library is online, students and teachers from not only ICU, but also the rest of the province will benefit.

Khan adds two separate computer labs with internet facilities have been set up for boys and girls. Currently, the thousand books which have been scanned are only available at these labs, not off campus. However, students can use the database to look up material and check on its availability, instead of physically looking through the shelves.

Breezy browsing

The librarian underlines the college administration has created a friendly environment for students as they search for books online. He says the material has been categorised into general, oriental, reference, periodical, treasure of literary gems and archives sections.

The general section contains writings in English, while the oriental section consists of publications in Urdu. The reference section includes dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, atlases, thesauruses and other reference material. Meanwhile, newspapers, magazines, journals and newsletters are available in the periodical section.

The real pièce de résistance of the library is its ‘treasure of literary gems’ section. This is home to manuscripts, historic maps, pictures, scripts of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and other important material in different languages such as Arabic, Persian, Pashto, Hindko and Urdu. Also, records of past students such as registration forms are also available in the archives section in addition to gazettes, personal staff files and cash books.

Another attraction of the library is its manuscripts collection. “[Some of] these historic works were composed/printed hundreds of years ago and cannot be found even in the libraries of Europe and other western countries,” says the librarian.

The manuscripts are written on various subjects including chemistry, physics, mathematics, religion and astronomy. Khan says the oldest manuscript in the library is the 1,200-year-old Kitab-al-Aghani written in Arabic by Abul Farah Ali Bin Hussain Isfahani.

This manuscript has four chapters—biographies, physics, Arabic grammar and poetry. Khan adds there are 1,261 manuscripts in different languages on various subjects. There are 946 manuscripts in Arabic, 310 in Persian, four in Pashto and one in Punjabi.

BA student Ibrar Khan says all kinds of facilities are available in the library. “When we first visited, it used to take time to sift through the material. Now, it is easy to search for a book through the online database and take it from the library.”

Islamia College lecturer Rukhsana Habib believes the library provides a friendly environment. Habib says all her free time after class is spent in the library as she has been an avid reader for years.

In-house museum

The library has a separate museum section with a rich collection of historic pictures, the belongings of Sir Shaibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan, a visitor’s book and model of the Islamia Collegiate School.

The picture gallery has some marvelous photographs from the institute’s history such as Jinnah with college students or Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum laying the foundation stone of the building.

Khan adds a visitor’s book, maintained properly, chronicles the visits of distinguished guests and even has handwritten remarks by Jinnah himself.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2015. 

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