Saturday, July 25, 2009

Punjab’s rural libraries spread awareness in farmers’ lives

Ani July 25th, 2009
BATHINDA - Many libraries in the rural Punjab are spreading awareness about different aspects of life and society and thus transforming lives of farmer families.
At Jidda village in State’s Bathinda district, people of different age groups gather to read daily newspapers at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Library in the village.
While farmers get updates and latest farming related news, the youth hunt for news and job options in national and local newspapers here.
“The farmers have benefited. They have gained knowledge about pesticides and newer techniques in farming at the library. Everyday, we read newspapers and the magazines like ‘Changi Kheti’ (good farming) and others. We find some time to spend in the library to gain knowledge,” said Sadhu Singh, a farmer and library member.
Set up in 1978, the library has a collection of over 1,500 books on almost all subjects, including religion, literature and history. It helps to promote reading habit among the rural people, and also raises awareness about civil rights and many other issues.
“Our aim in opening up libraries is to make the rural people aware of their rights by providing them modern literature. We want them to come to library and read books and use the information about civil rights and even fight for it. We are witnessing the impact of this move as many farmers unions have been established, that are now fighting for their rights,” said Jagmail Singh, a member of the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Library Committee.
Each member is expected to pay Rs.50 (about a dollar) as security deposit for books for two years. It enables the member to get books issued for two weeks from the library.
Shaheed Bhagat Singh Library Committee has the responsibility to look after the maintenance of library.
Besides, the Sabhyachar and Samaj Sewa Manch, a non-governmental organisation, which is running three libraries at Mansa and Khokhar Khurd village, and spreading awareness.
As more people in the rural areas are keen to become members, there is a feeling among the library members that more such libraries should be set up.
“Every village should have libraries. It will help youth and people of other age groups to spend their time in reading the books, and not to indulge in other anti-social activities. If there is a library in the village, the villagers will come and spend time in reading books and newspapers and will be better informed,” said Romi, one of the library members.
Farming is becoming more complex and requires greater understanding and knowledge on the part of the farmers.
And a library can be a great medium to provide them more information abnout new crops, technology, fertilizers and even about climate.
By Avtar Gill (ANI)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Public libraries set for complete makeover

Public libraries set for complete makeover

E T B Sivapriyan, PTI News

New Delhi, Jul 23, 2009: If the government has its way, public libraries across the country will undergo a complete makeover with modern equipment, broad-band connectivity besides being networked with educational institutions.

The Culture Ministry has planned to launch National Mission on Libraries (NML), as recommended by the National Knowledge Commission (NKC), to revitalise the public library movement in the country, sources said here today.

The ministry has sent a set of recommendations in this regard to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who holds charge of this ministry, sources said.

There are also plans to set up about 7,000 new libraries, equipped with computers and other modern devices, across the country with prime focus on rural areas.

"Public libraries across the country will benefit from the Mission which will bring in modern technical equipments to the libraries.

Source: PTI News

Thursday, July 16, 2009

States of India those passed Public Libraries Act

States of India those passed Public Libraries Act (legislation):

  • Tamil Nadu, 1948
  • Andhra Pradesh, 1960
  • Karnataka, 1965
  • Maharashtra, 1967
  • West Bengal, 1979
  • Manipur, 1988
  • Kerala, 1989
  • Haryana, 1989
  • Mizoram, 1993
  • Goa, 1993
  • Gujarat, 2000
  • Orissa, 2000
  • Rajasthan, 2005
  • Uttar Pradesh, 2005
  • Uttarakhand, 2005
  • Pondicherry, 2007/2008

Friday, July 10, 2009

A QUIET PLACE TO READ IN - Libraries are a measure of civilization

A QUIET PLACE TO READ IN - Libraries are a measure of civilization
Pratap Bhanu Mehta, The Telegraph, 01 February 2004
Widener Library, Harvard’s premier library, is surely one of the most imposing memorials any mother has constructed for a lost child. As you come up the steps, past its imposing columns and enter through the main gate, you are simply, but poignantly, reminded of the library’s origins. Eleanor Elkins Widener had the library constructed in 1915 in memory of her son, Harry Elkins Widener, who perished aboard the Titanic and was himself an enthusiastic book-collector. The Library is now one of the world’s great libraries, comparable to the Bodleian, the British Library or the Bibilotheque National. The extraordinary thing is that the library still has open access stacks and is the largest library in the world whose books still circulate.
I arrived at the Widener after a gap of three years. The library was originally constructed by one of America’s first African-American architects, Julian Abele, and had undergone a major renovation since I last saw it. Its stacks, always a little dingy, now looked more expansive, and it has an extraordinarily plush set of reading rooms full of natural light. Coming a week after the attack on the library of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, it was difficult not to think about what this library represents. What an extraordinary ambition to create an institution which aspires to possess all thought that can be made available in print. Admittedly, it is an enterprise sustained by vast resources. Even so, the ambition itself is ennobling in more ways than one can list.
Who knows what purposes the library will be used for? What ideological causes it will serve? What humanity it will inspire? What madness might its contents incite? Although immeasurably useful, a library refuses to be instrumental to any purpose or cause. A library insistently transcends all of them: it will provide a refuge for Karl Marx as much as it will for Aurobindo Ghosh. Entering a library like the Widener is always both thrilling and humbling: you will be excited by something in every second shelf, serendipity will lead you to books that you did not think existed. And yet every minute you will feel humble and inadequate. Just how much knowledge is out there is a thought that constantly haunts you. There are few places that can elevate you and humble you at the same time. A great library is one of them.
Libraries of this scale are not so much an act of conceit as a wise insurance policy. Whatever the venality and barbarism of human beings at any given moment, whatever lapses of memory or sins of ignorance they fall prey to, so long as a library survives there is hope. Even a few surviving copies of Plato and Aristotle could rescue Europe from the dark ages; and humanity can retrieve its mistakes so long as there is some library around. This is why, perhaps, ancient kings in India and elsewhere ennobled themselves by patronizing collections of books and manuscripts. It is not an accident that barbarians ransack libraries first. It is the surest way of erasing humanity itself: its memories, hopes, aspirations, achievements and even its errors. The Alexandrian fantasy, as it is known, after the great library, founded by Ptolemy II in 286 BC in Alexandria, and which, it is said, took six months to burn, is perhaps the most extraordinary way of expressing human aspiration; and its absence is a sure sign that humanity is moribund.
So perhaps Eleanor Elkins had grasped a profound truth: a library would be a truly magnificent memorial to her son, a monument whose worth would only grow with time. And this is the truth we are forgetting every moment. The hooligans who ransacked the Bhandarkar Institute, the benighted state of Bihar that has virtually no public libraries left, the unconscionably appalling state of our university libraries, the wilful destruction of collections in possession of the state, the neglect heap- ed upon tens of thousands of manuscripts, only underscore the peculiarity of Mrs Widener’s gesture, and that of many other philanthropists around the world.
The University of Beijing recently got a twenty million dollar gift from a Hong Kong-based businessman, just for its library. How does a culture acquire the extraordinary ambition to see the creation of a great library as an achievement more ennobling than almost anything else? How do we acquire the determination to preserve human ingenuity in this form, with all its achievements and follies? How do we create a culture where a book is not a problem, but a source of hope?
Travelling across India, the absence of good libraries is striking. The issue is not lack of money. In many cases, as in institutions run by the state, there is a wilful determination to destroy even whatever little there is. I have seldom seen library-staff in university libraries who do not see books as a problem. University administrators seem to believe that you can build great universities without a great library. One seldom encounters philanthropists who think that a library might be a worthwhile bequest. It is almost as if we have convinced ourselves: we already know what is useful, and therefore we do not need to collect this stuff. There are some private collections in India that are well preserved. But these tend to be what might be called “sectarian” libraries, a collection of books on Jainism, or a collection created by someone interested in Tantra and so forth. But as useful as these are, they in some ways subvert the very meaning of a library.
A general library is peculiarly a place without authority. High philosophy and low jokes, good science and quack recipes are all marked by a call number, as if saying to the reader: you shall decide what is important. There is no prima-facie authority determining that only this form of knowledge is important. And, in a way, the great public libraries — the New York Public Library or the British Library — served as vehicles of democratization: they gave access to knowledge to countless readers. It is almost impossible to imagine the modern world of letters or politics without the culture of libraries to sustain it.
Germaine Greer once wrote of the experience of being in a library that “Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. The pleasure they give us is steady, unorgiastic, reliable, deep and long-lasting. In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed.” She might have added, for good measure, that the lack of libraries, their wilful neglect, is a sign of intellectual and spiritual impoverishment, a culture that is a prisoner of the crassest instrumentalities. The attackers of the Bhandarkar Library were not anomalous, they were merely expressing our dominant cultural sensibility: a library is a nuisance.
Perhaps more than dams or technology, if libraries had been designated as the temples of new India, made to proliferate across towns and cities, who knows how different the cultural and political history of modern India might look. India may be shining, but it is doubtful whether it can ennoble itself without the free, disinterested comforts of a library. Only in a library can individuals, or nations, come to know themselves. In an age determined to construct an index for everything, the presence of libraries may not be a bad measure of civilization itself.
[The author is professor of philosophy and of law and governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University]

Public Library Revitalization in India: Hopes, Challenges, and New Visions

An Insightful Article:
Public Library Revitalization in India: Hopes, Challenges, and New Visions
by Ajit K. Pyati
First Monday, Volume 14, Number 7 - 6 July 2009

With India's growing economy and status as an emerging world power, a new consciousness is developing in the country about the need to reinvest in public services. The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) is an advisory body constituted by the Prime Minister to provide recommendations for improving India’s knowledge infrastructure. As part of this Commission, a set of recommendations has been developed to improve India's long neglected library system. This article explores the implications of these recommendations, with a specific focus on India's public library system and the social development gains that are often associated with public libraries. The potential of India's public libraries to serve as community information centres (CICs) is highlighted, as well as the challenges that lie ahead in implementing a new vision for public library revitalization. The article serves as an invitation for concerted action, reflection, and dialogue with regard tothis important and pressing issue.
Read Full-text Article
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

National Library in All Metros

National Library in All Metros
2 July 2009, Abhijit Dasgupta, India Today

The Visva-Bharati University and the National Library are set for a complete overhaul with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh doling out Rs 100 crore and Rs 20 crore, respectively, to these two institutions which have been in dire straits because of apathy, negligence and wastage of funds over the years.

While the stress in Visva-Bharati will be more on restoration of art works and preserving Tagore’s traditions, the National Library will be fully computerized and its 25-lakh treasure trove of books, documents and newspapers brought under the click of a mouse.

This is the first time that such a huge step is being taken at the Union government level, driven by Union culture secretary Jahar Sarkar, to save these two institutions from negligence. Sarkar has already held meetings with the Visva-Bharati and National Library authorities and money is being released in parts.

Visva-Bharati sources, however, said that the money may not be released to the university directly and that the government would carry out the work through its agencies. “This is good and we welcome it because Visva-Bharati does not have the expertise to launch and carry out such delicate restoration work. Work on Udayan, where Tagore lived, has already begun and the restoration work on paintings and frescos by masters like Nandalal Bose and Ramkinkar Beij will start soon,” they said. They also said that some buildings and works of art were “beyond restoration” and a “loss to the nation.”

The sources made it clear that former administrations of the university had dragged their feet on these sort of initiatives and had Sarkar not stepped in at the right time, matters would have gone out of hand. Sculptures by legends like Ramkinkar were kept out in the open without any protection and over the years, some had been ruined beyond recognition.

The vice-chancellor, Dr Rajat Kanta Roy, said that philology had always been Visva-Bharati’s strong point but it was sad that foreigners had ceased to come as students to learn languages over the years as they used to earlier. “We are creating a special cell where the comparative languages will be taught in a big way. Uniting languages is the basic aim of philology. Once the other works like restoration and preservations take off and Visva-Bharati is set to return to its old glory, then our philology section shall be the pride of the nation,” he said.

Dr K.K. Banerjee, director of the National Library, once the residence of the English Lieutenant Governor after the capital shifted to Delhi, said that the amount released by the Centre and Sarkar’s initiative would go a long way to help overcome the various crises that book-lovers were facing. “We intend to bring our collection of 25 lakh books under a computer click. Once that happens, it will revolutionise the world of knowledge in the country,” he said.

Dr Banerjee said that around three lakh books were simply “lying around” with no cataloguing having been done. “We have books and documents, not to forget newspapers, dating back to 250 years and more. Godowns were stacked with books with readers having no access to them and termites eating into them. “├ľur first priority is cataloguing. An inventory is a must,”the director added.

Dr Banerjee said that he had plans to take the National Library to other metros of the country through city hubs, the first of which had been set up in Kolkata but is languishing. “Once computers take over, this should not be difficult and somebody sitting in Delhi can visit our hubs and access books from there, if not from home directly. Obviously, there will be a membership fee but given the treasure that we have, that is a pittance,” he said. In another two years, the National Library project would go online.


IN NEHRU’S HOUSE - A Unique Institution in Decline

IN NEHRU’S HOUSE - A Unique Institution in Decline
9 July 2009, Rudrangshu Mukherjee, The Telegraph

Indians are obsessed with individuals. One adverse result of this is that institutions do not get the degree of attention and care that they deserve. There are too many institutions around to list that have gone into decline and no longer perform at the level they once did or do not function to their full potential and promise. In Calcutta, one has only to think of Presidency College, the Calcutta Medical College, the National Library and many others. While talking about these institutions, the point to remember is that these are institutions with 100 years or more of service and work behind them. It could conveniently be argued that these institutions are suffering from natural fatigue even though we know that the real causes of the decline lie elsewhere. Moreover, a century is nothing in the history of an institution. What sets off alarm bells is when a relatively new institution with enormous potential and resources is said to be in decline.

One such institution is the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi. Outside a small circle of academics, very few in Calcutta know about this place, so a few words about it are in order. It is located in Teen Murti House, the residence of India’s first prime minister. It was conceived in the late 1960s and became operational in the early 1970s. The project of editing and publishing The Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru was also housed in the premises of Teen Murti House. The library, when it was opened to scholars, was in a separate modern building, which was at the end of a long driveway and hidden away by a cluster of trees. Within a remarkably short time, it acquired a reputation of being an excellent library and repository of private papers and documents relating to modern Indian history and culture.

I remember when I was a post-graduate student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, a group of us — members of that group went on to pursue distinguished careers as historians, conservationists and bureaucrats — would go to study there. The university bus would drop us at the gate of Teen Murti House around 9.30 in the morning and would pick us up again a little after 7 pm. I remember those days with joy because the library was our little bit of paradise on earth. We read voraciously with may be an hour’s break for lunch and again for a few minutes at teatime. My previous exposure to a big library was the National Library in Calcutta, which was, of course, bigger in its holdings compared to what the NMML could offer. But working in the National Library was hardly a pleasant experience — books would take hours to arrive (often they did not arrive) and there was no ambience of scholarship. The NMML was open shelf: one could browse. The latest books and journals were available. (It was there that I began reading through the back numbers of that outstanding history journal from Oxford, Past and Present.) The library had every modern facility. Later, when I had the good fortune of studying in some of the best libraries in the United Kingdom, I realized that the NMML was an institution of international standards.

The NMML held out another major attraction for scholars. From the mid 1970s to the 1990s, it was the site for some of the best seminars and lectures in history and the social sciences. These debates were marked by intellectual originality and occasionally angry disagreements. There was excitement and dedicated scholarship. Sometimes out of these seminars came published volumes of importance. The book that comes immediately to mind was the one that was probably the first in the series. This was a volume edited by V.C. Joshi, the deputy director of the NMML, and was called Rammohun Roy and the Process of Modernization in India. Published in 1975, some of the essays in the volume began the process of re-evaluating not only the role of Rammohun Roy but also the entire analytical framework for understanding the forces that shaped India’s modernization.

When I went back to use the library intermittently once again in the late 1990s, I had the sense that its best days were over. I found that often books were not properly shelved and therefore could not be found. The latest publications had not been bought. The service wasn’t as quick as it had once been. It seemed to me that the Indian ennui had finally caught up with the NMML: it was going the way of all institutions in India.

It now transpires that my fears were not totally misplaced. As many as 57 eminent historians, social scientists, publishers and scholars — among them India’s best historians, political scientists and sociologists — have written to the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, about the state of affairs in the NMML. Among the signatories are quondam fellows of the NMML. Thus, there is no way that a scholar prime minister can ignore the note.

In their submission, the scholars have put forward what they see as some of the features of the decline and have suggested some steps to arrest it and to revive what is really a unique institution for the study of modern Indian history and culture. It goes without saying that the decline of an institution like the NMML can hardly be the responsibility of any one individual. (An individual can, however, hasten a process of decline or stop it by initiating or not initiating certain steps.)

What is important is that there is a feeling among a large body of scholars that a unique institution has slipped into decline. This perception cannot be ignored or written off as something that is motivated or driven by the self-interest of individuals. Neither should it be read as the condemnation of only one individual. The note points to neglect, which has deeper roots, and may even be embedded in the way the administration of the NMML is structured. The subject demands the prime minister’s immediate attention. Here is an institution that needs the touch of his reforming hand.

In October 1959, when Jawaharlal Nehru had gone to Nagarjunasagar to inaugurate a dam, a worker came up to him and said in Telugu, “Here you have lighted a lamp.’’ Nehru was so moved that he took this as the test of a person’s work and wrote, “Do we, in the course of our lives, light lamps, or do we snuff out the lamps or candles that exist?’’ From Teen Murti House, when Nehru lived there, many lamps were lit. Some years after his death, within Teen Murti House a lamp was lit in the shape of an institution called the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. Let us try and keep that flame burning instead of snuffing it out.


Glitter Masks Decay at Top Library

Glitter Masks Decay at Top Library
Siddharth Srikanth, Times of India, 3 Jul 2009

CHENNAI: Despite its glorious heritage, the Connemara Public Library, which serves as the State central library, is showing signs of decay.

Several books are in dire need of restoration, new books are unavailable and there isn't enough staff. Since many of the books are early editions, conservation techniques need to be updated, say library sources.

"Before building a new library worth Rs 165 crore (at Kotturpuram), the government should improve the infrastructure of a library that was once the pride of Chennai," says K Mahalingam, who frequents the library.

The Connemara library was opened in 1896, making it one of the oldest in the state. It is a United Nations Depository Centre and a UNESCO Information Centre, as well as an architectural symbol of the British Raj.

Apart from air conditioning in certain sections and computerised bibliographies, little has changed over the years, says Dr P Perumal, a library sciences professor.

The library does not have a children's reading section as it was replaced with a digitised Children's Centre' a few years ago. "The centre only has CDs with computer games and short stories. Children should be able to read good literature," says R Lakshmi, the mother of an eight year old. A library official, however, says, "The library is meant only for research scholars, not children." But researchers too find it hard to use the library.

"The public is not permitted into the old books section, and the process to submit a list of books for viewing is tedious," says S Haripriya, a Madras University post graduate student.

The computerised bibliography for Tamil books is also not user friendly. "One of the cardinal rules of library science is to save the reader's time. Any search throws up several different results without any categorisation," says Perumal.

The library does not have new titles either. A copy of every book published in the country has to be delivered by its publisher within 30 days to the four public libraries specified of which Connemara is one as per the Delivery of Books and Newspapers (Public Libraries) Act, 1954. But over 60% of books published are not sent sent here, say officials. The National Library of India at Kolkata received 6,890 English books under the Act in 2008. Connemara library received just 5,431 English books in 2008.

The library is short-staffed: Of the 121 positions in the library, 41 are vacant. The post of director was dispensed with eight months back, and the library is run by a librarian-in-charge. "The issue will be remedied in the near future," said the office of the Directorate of Public Libraries.