THE GREAT LIBRARY MAKEOVER
Brand new e- library facilities is just one of the surprises in store for students at British Council India. By Sonali Acharjee
Be it help with the Commonwealth Scholarships, mock tests to prepare for your IELTS exam or simply the latest British novels, British Council India has long offered Indians a number of library, education and cultural services. Now in its 64th year in India, this international institute is only set to become even bigger and better in the years ahead.
The iconic building in New Delhi was the first office of British Council India and was designed by renowned architect Charles Correa. First opened in 1993, the library building displays a unique mural by Howard Hodgkin on the façade symbolising a banyan tree along with a sculpture by Stephen Cox called the ‘ Descent of the Ganges’. “Apart from being a heritage landmark in the area, British Council is also one of the few places in the city where one can read a book in total comfort and silence. The reading rooms, computer services, journals, magazines, newspapers, videos and books are a student’s dream come true. What one cannot access in public libraries or bookshops in Delhi, one can easily find at the British Council,” says Asmeeta Kumar, 21, from Delhi.
At present the institute offers a range of specialised projects in arts, education, exams, English language and society to over 1 lakh members. Each of the nine centres currently boasts of a total collection of up to 25,000 print books, 4,000 DVDs, 300 audiobooks and 50 of the best periodicals and newspapers from the UK. They also provide access to English language training and learning for both students and teachers and opportunities for Indians to study in the UK. The prestigious Jubilee Scholarships, Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan and Charles Wallace India Trust awards are managed by the institute.
Despite having its headquarters in Delhi, the British Council also has its offices in Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai and has its presence in other cities through library and cultural services in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Pune. Now these libraries are set to get a makeover as the institute makes plans to grow its services outside of the metros. “There is a growing hunger amongst Indians to access education and cultural material. These aspirations are no longer restricted to the metros. We are now looking to expand our Chandigarh library and increae our presence in smaller towns as well to meet this demand,” says Rob Lynes, director of British Council India.
The British Council library already offers over 70,000 books and 14,000 journals through its online database. But the volume of material available online is only set to grow now. “Technology has changed the world and the way people interact with one another. We cannot be disconnected from the demands of today’s generation. More and more people want to access useful and quality information on their phones, computers or tablets from the comfort of their own
homes. Our aim is to expand our online resources to make even more books, journals, newspapers, videos and magazines available to our members,” adds Lynes.
Another highlight of the library are the annual education fairs held on their premises. Showcasing representatives from leading British universities, these fairs have long attracted students from across the country. “British Council was my first point of contact when I decided I wanted to study in the UK. From scholarships to courses, visas, accommodation and work opportunities in London, I found answers to virtually every aspect of student life from the institute,” says Malini Singh, 19, from Chennai.
Last year over 50 different UK universities came down to meet with students at British Council India. “Going forward we are planning to conduct more and more online education fairs. So instead of physically coming down to meet the representatives, you will be able to interact with them over email, Skype or chat,” says Lynes.
English language training is also a key offering and the institute has trained over 7.5 lakh Indian teachers in English through their four dedicated English learning centres in Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. “I wanted to pursue a part- time career at a call centre. For this I needed to work on my accent. The language courses at British Council really helped me improve my pronounciation and diction. It’s also a great place to make new friends and learn about the British culture,” says Sharda Srinivasan, 25, a student from Chennai. Last year over two million people from 90 different countries took their English language exams with the British Council. In India the institute offers training for IELTS, Cambridge English exams and various other professional exams.
To further improve their literary work in India, the institute has also tied up with the Jaipur Literature Festival, Hay Festivals in India and the Kolkata Book Festival. “English lan- guage training has long been our focus and all our trainers are accredited by Cambridge English. We have both online and offline resource material available for students or teachers looking to sit for English language exams,” adds Lynes.
For those aspirants looking to learn English who do not have a British Council in their home city, the increase in online learning courses comes as welcome relief. “There are many online programmes in English available but I would still choose to do one from the British Council because of the latters reputation. One can be sure that the training from the institute will not only be genuine but will also be recognised on an international level,” says Jhanvi Dutt, 21, from Panipat. Dutt attending IELTS preparation courses at British Council Delhi. “I don’t have a British Council in my hometown so I had no choice but to attend classes in Delhi. I revised using their online guide. The revision really paid off as I scored a 7.0 in the exam. It would be great to have more online learning resources as it saves you the trouble of relocating to another city only to attend a few classes,” adds Dutt. With the institute looking to add to their online and offline presence, students certainly have lots to look forward to now.
Students borrowing books at the British Council library in Chandigarh ( far left); Students entering the British Council library in Delhi ( left); Classroom lecture in progress at British Council Delhi ( below left); the iconic British Council India building in the heart of New Delhi ( below right)