Digitizing Priceless Texts

By on Jun 8, 2021 in Giving

Have you ever heard the saying, “We don’t know what we don’t know?” We cannot quantify the impact of lost or destroyed information once it’s gone. Subsequent generations are simply left not knowing what was once known. From the destruction of the Xianyang State Archives in 206 B.C. and burning of the U.S. Library of Congress in 1814 to the vandalism of the Central Library of Mosul in 2015, human action and natural disasters have robbed the world of more than 100 major libraries and their irreplaceable texts.

In 2003, many sacred and historic texts at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) in Pune suffered at the hands of vandals. The incident was a sober reminder that we must proactively protect the fragile and irreplaceable documents that influence cultural evolution.

To protect the legacies of literature and celebrate its centennial anniversary, BORI and Yardi have teamed up to create a digital library.


Established in 1917, BORI is the caretaker of more than 153,000 rare books and 28,000 manuscripts. Texts offer valuable insights on topics such as the Vedas, Ayurveda, Buddhism, Jainism, Sanskrit and ancient Indian philosophies.

 In 2017, the organization celebrated 100 years in operation. Staff initiated a new digital library that would protect its priceless holdings while making content available to larger audiences.

“We recognized the need to evolve in a new direction,” explains Sudheer Vaishampayan, honorary secretary of BORI. “We recognized the need to protect the treasure in our care as well as the significance of making it accessible. Hence we started the mission to digitize our library.”

A labor of love and a legacy

To create the digital library, staff followed five basic steps:

  • Create an online catalogue system to ensure that texts are easy to find. BORI used a “Marc-21” standard that includes 26 fields per catalogue entry.
  • Select books for scanning based on three parameters: online availability, copyrights and academic significance. Based on those criteria, BORI selected nearly 16,000 books.
  • Establish the Digitization Lab. BORI is home to one of the most well-equipped digitization labs in India that includes three book scanners and two document scanners.
  • Begin the time consuming and tedious process called non-destructive scanning. Page-by-page, staff scanned in almost 16,000 books. BORI staff partnered with Nyansa, an end-to-end digital solutions facilitator. The teams worked in three shifts from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.. It has taken two years to scan nearly 7 million pages—and work is still in progress!
  • Transition scanned files to the Digitalaya platform created by the Center for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).

Lastly, BORI established BoriLib.com.  The digital library went live in late 2019. It currently hosts 8,269 books with about 7,500 books in the pipeline.

“After five years, and tremendous efforts of multiple teams, we know that our digital journey has only begun,” said Vaishampayan. “The pandemic has put a brake on our speed, but we will finish the job by the end of 2021.”

BORI + Yardi, safeguarding the future by preserving the past

The information and philosophies found within the books have already survived the test of time. In a digital library, they will remain with us even if the original texts cannot. The benefits of such work are innumerable.

Yardi is a proud sponsor of the digital library. “Yardi sponsors the whole initiative,” says Bhupal Patwardhan, chairman of the executive board at BORI. “Mr. Anant Yardi, the founder of Yardi Systems, facilitated the implementation of the entire project. They donated two new book scanners, sponsored the digitization process and also our move to the Digitalaya platform developed by C-DAC.”

He continues, “We are also eternally grateful to Ajmera group for helping us buy the first book-scanner in 2016.”

Though the bulk of the project is complete, work remains. The library is currently accessible online and will receive updates as new resources become available.

“We remain grateful to every helping hand as we strive to safeguard the heritage we host for posterity, while also making it accessible to people across the globe,” says Vaishampayan.

Yardi is Energized for Good! Explore other corporate social responsibility initiatives on our Giving page.