Digital library for students

Digital library for students

ROMA – IN Ramabaka Nkobolo’s digital library, high school students will just log in and find a sea of books that form part of their syllabus at any moment in time.
Nkobolo, a student at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), says his library will also include books by other Basotho authors, some of which are hard to come by.
In the good old days, a hard copy book was a must.

When you were a student, it was either you had it, or you didn’t have it.
Now whole books can be viewed or downloaded online.
“However, the only problem we have is that high school students are still using hard copies which can be either be expensive, hard-to-find or inconvenient to use,” Nkobolo said.
This is why he came up with this library.
There are people who still like that “hard feel” of hard copies.
Granted, such people are often among the BBTs (those who were Born-Before-Technology).

However, the reality is that hard copies do not belong to the 21st century.
The benefits of digital are too many to count.
Here, according to Nkobolo, are a few of them:
Low cost: unlike buying huge voluminous books, you will pay a low cost subscription only to be greeted with all kinds of books once you are in.
You go straight to what you want: rarely do we need to read everything in the hardcopy books. But we still pay for the whole book. With the digital library, it is not so much the book as it is the contents of interest in the book, which you go directly to.

A bookshop in your hand: even if you had money to buy books, you still have to travel to specific places to buy them. Have you ever moved from Mokhotlong to Mazenod, only to find the book you needed was out of stock? Here you never run out of stock.
A moving library: imagine that as a student, you are constantly on the move. What if you have a whole library of your high school books right on the palm of your hand (in your cell phone) as you move? You can refer to any information you want, anytime.
How is that?

Unlimited storage: One of the tricky things with hard copies is storage. Where on earth will you store your many books? Let’s not even say much about the dangers of rodents making a lunch out of your books.
Rodents may be clever but they can’t do much in the digital world.
Freedom from bad neighbours who never return things: have you been in a situation where your neighbours borrowed your books from your mom for the neighbour’s children to use? Chances are, those books never returned.
“This time around, if your neighbour comes for a borrow, you will direct her to our website,” Nkobolo said.

There is no borrowing or lending this time around, just log in.
Thieves at bay: many thieves start their thievery at high school by stealing other students’ books. This platform provides no opportunities for the thieving lot.
Last and not least, access to old books: Who among you miss the old and interesting books, the likes of Arola Naheng ea Maburu, ’Makotulo, Tholoana, Mopheme and so on?
Suppose such books run out of print and those in our hands got rotten, what do we do?

Young people can still learn a lot from those legendary books if they are included in the library.
“We will unearth them and put them in,” he said.
Sounds good!
However, how is Nkobolo doing it?
As with all good things, the devil is in the details.
“First we created a website. That sounds simple enough on paper but creating something of this size and importance is not as easy.”
For programming, he used the likes of HTML, CSS, Java Script and PHP.
“In some cases, I had to go through a tricky route of database development and I had to ask for help from my friends.”
Then it is the trouble of filling up the site with books.

First it is preferable to obtain soft copies from the book producers.
In many cases that is not visible.
The second option is to go for image-to-text software.
In such a case, you take images of the text on the books and turn them into text that can be edited, as in word files.

The simpler and last option, but not necessarily the most preferable, is to scan the documents.
Now, the world of copyright in these books is even a trickier territory than the technical part of it.
In this case, he will have to talk to the copyright owners of each and every book that he is going to use and negotiate revenue sharing formulae with those who understand the brilliance of the project.

Own Correspondent

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