The Story


The Special Library Programme at the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) has worked with public libraries from India and South Asia to transform themselves as community innovative change-makers and act as a catalyst to transform their libraries as community knowledge hubs. The foundation spearheads INELI worldwide model in South Asia, for the public librarians in this region.


For many eras, libraries have acted as a place for every individual to connect, have access to information through books, learn to improve their skills, and gain knowledge and gather insights for making informed decisions.  Review of Indian history would indicate that libraries have been instrumental in establishing intangible patterns of information access whenever possible to support progressive thinkers and the knowledge economy.

That said, globally, Public Librarians have felt the urgent need to redefine and accelerate their libraries as engines for community development. The global library initiative had seeded the idea of building a network of community library trailblazers through The International Network of Emerging Library Innovators (INELI), across 8 regions. INELI is a dynamic innovative leadership program that has nurtured librarians to see their potentials in the roles of visionary, drivers, engineers and builders of community development through innovative need-based, locale-specific, demand-driven and timely knowledge services. It has propelled the thinking of more than 60,000 librarians to evolve as a network for driving social development.

The Special Library Programme

The foundation was a recipient of grants from the Gates Foundation and NASSCOM Foundation, for strengthening librarian’s leadership capacities and reposition libraries as lifelong knowledge centres for one and all. By design, the initiatives have focused on strengthening leadership abilities, thinking out of the box, initiate services and envision libraries for community development.

Synergies and Leveraging opportunities: Two key aspects, understanding community needs – delivering of need-based services and its alignment with IFLA’s UN-SDGs, can further catalyse development in public libraries. Globally, public libraries are evolving as neutral, safe, trust-based spaces, enhancing access to information for everyone and it is a fundamental human right[1] as per Goal 16 of UN-SDGs.

Initiative 1 – International Network of Emerging Library Innovators (INELI) India and South Asia

Librarians leadership is globally being refined, wherein they are seen as social enables having 21st Century librarian’s skills. In this context, the INELI – India and South Asia a comprehensive capacity building program was adopted from the global model that benefitted more than 70 public librarians. This model equipped the selected librarians to graduate as library innovators through their participation in the online coursework and in-person convening’s required to support their continuous learning.  The open-source e-platform was built to bring in a multitude of changes in the way librarians think, design, innovate and create learning opportunities for their target groups beyond books.

A network of trailblazing innovative library leaders for South Asia are formal graduates of the project have formulated a Foundation – Asia Network of Library Innovators’ Foundation (ANLiF). The foundation aims to empower librarians and act as enablers for catalyzing changes in the library field of this region.

Initiative 2 – Repositioning Indian Public Libraries as Life-Long Knowledge Centres

More than 50 Library Leaders from 19 States in India, from the above initiative, have fostered and enhanced their public libraries by taking action to demonstrate the role of libraries as knowledge hubs through innovative services. For more than two years, librarians have facilitated local partnerships, built local networks for delivering services in their libraries. The major achievements until 2019, can be viewed in the 30 years journey on “Empowering Knowledge Societies”.

[1] How Do Libraries Further Development?


INELI India and South Asia (Library Innovators)

  • Enhanced innovative leadership skills and knowledge of 70 emerging public library leaders,
  • A vibrant regional network of emerging library leader acting as accelerators, taking action in the field of the library. Increased collaboration between library stakeholders in South Asia by the end of the program.

Repositioning of India Public Libraries as Knowledge Centres (Library Innovators & Experiential Innovators)

  • Enhancing capacities of identified library staff across 50 libraries, who are adopting a consultative, needs assessment approach for meeting information, educational and learning needs of its diversified community,
  • Introducing creative, interactive and innovative ICT enabled knowledge services that support the community to make informed decisions, and
  • The librarians to communicate the results to state / national level stakeholders for repositioning and advocating socially inclusive public library policies

Quick Facts

  • 3 cohorts with 74 public librarians have participated in this initiative

  • 54 librarians from 19 States in India

  • 20 librarians from 6 South Asian Countries – Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives


A reflective learning approach was adopted wherein one had to Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, which were the key steps taken to improve the learning curve of the librarians. The learning system was strengthened by leveraging on feedbacks received from all library innovators, experiential innovators, and mentors.

A multidisciplinary group was engaged when required, to ensure that aspects of leadership skill-building, key concepts, approaches, and strategies were shared. Additionally, with reference to global development on the role of libraries and the relevance of UN-SDGs for community development was inducted.


The initiatives of the special library programme have provided an opportunity for the librarians to develop their knowledge, attitude, and skills for enhancing their 21st Century leadership qualities through a variety of learning environments and networking of events. The following are the core key activities, the libraries were engaged in.

Success Stories (To be Updated)


Related Resources

 Special Library Programme Team, MSSRF


Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for INELI India and South Asia Initiatives

NASSCOM Foundation, Indian Public Library Movement and M S Swaminathan Research Foundation through a tripartite partnership implemented the initiative “Repositioning Indian Public Libraries as Knowledge Centres”


M S Swaminathan Research Foundation

Third Cross Street, Institutional Area
Taramani, Chennai – 600 113
Tamil Nadu, India
Phone: +91-2254 1229, 1698, 2698, 2699


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