THE SMELL of a book, the scope for scribbling in the margins, underlining interesting sentences and quotes, folding a corner of the page, keeping colourful bookmarks within and then the pleasure of sleeping by keeping the book beside a pillow are some of the things that still compel city residents to continue their love affair with printed books rather than the eBooks available on Kindles and mobile phones these days.
Enter any of the libraries, and you will find almost every reader carrying a smart phone or a laptop. But then keeping all the digital aids aside, they are glued to their books with pencils and highlighters in hand.
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Parveen Khurana, librarian incharge, State Divisional Library, Sector 34, says, “You may carry 300 books with you in your Kindle or in your tablet while travelling. But the battery will always be an issue while there is never a problem with printed books. Also, we can never claim eBooks in our Kindles as our property as they vanish after a year; sometimes due to the battery back-up problems, readers are likely to lose the downloaded material but the hard copies of books are always our property.”
“Once you buy a book, you own it. The distinct smell of its pages, and each and every engraved letter is something so very personal,” says Vikram Chopra, a resident of Chandigarh and a regular visitor at The Browser Library and Bookstore, Sector 8.
A first-year student of SD College, Sector 32, Vikramjeet says, “I believe reading books in the library is the only old tradition we are still following; we will continue to follow it for the simple reason that flipping through pages gives an inner satisfaction which no eBook can ever provide.”
The libraries also see a large number of aspirants preparing for various competitive exams who prefer to come here to study. A variety of options for children are another reason that parents prefer to bring them to the libraries.
The T S Central Library, Sector 17, and State Divisional Library, Sector 34, cater to around 3,000 students daily. The library incharges here maintain the lack of adequate space is a common and long-pending problem. Two more floors are yet to be made functional at the Sector 34 library.
“We already have a space crunch and still three departments are occupying our space: the civil defence, census and the portraits. Since the footfall of readers had increased, we had to convert our magazine room into a reading room,” says Anju Gupta, incharge of the TS Central Library, Sector 17. She adds, “There were days when people of all age groups used to come here to spend time with books but now one of the reasons which holds back most of the readers is the lack of parking space. There is no parking space even for our own staff. So how can we expect general public or senior citizens to waste one hour finding a proper space for parking before coming to the library? Another thing is that this area becomes deserted after office hours.”
With more than 30,000 books available for buying and reading, The Browser Library and Bookstore still sees about 30-40 visitors every day. The library offers a silent environment to its visitors, which allows them to sit and read for hours. “Over the years, we have retained our old readers. But there is a decline in the number of youngsters who visit the library nowadays,” says Ghanshyam Mohanto, an executive who has been working at the library since 1998. However, for avid readers like Abhinav and Shelley who visit the library on a daily basis, nothing can replace printed books. “Yes, we are from that so-called Internet-savvy age, but at the end of the day, I still turn to the hard copy of a book, instead of a Kindle, though it is more economical to download a book on Kindle and it is also very easy to carry it around,” says Shelley.
The British Council Library, which was shifted to Elante Mall in 2013, has about 14,000 books in its physical library, and continues to see around 50-60 visitors daily. The library also has an extensive online collection, and organises regular poet-reading and book-signing workshops. “A lot of people do actually prefer just reading online, which is why we have a vast online repository. We also provide our readers with Wi-Fi facility at the library,” says Namrata, an employee at the British Council Library.
At these libraries, the children’s section continues to attract the majority of readers, closely followed by fiction books. Working professionals can also be seen turning up at the libraries after work, and reading their favourite authors.
“Imagine yourself on a rainy day, when you are cosying up with a warm cup of coffee. You wouldn’t want to turn to a Kindle to read stories of far and beyond; you would most certainly turn to the hard copy of a book. Books have a character; books make you enjoy the art of reading,” adds Vikram.
Sharing their ideas for the smart city project being initiated by the UT Administration, the incharges of T S Central Library, Sector 17, and State Divisional Library, Sector 34, assert that the administration should make a provision for connecting these libraries through a common smart card which could be used for issuing or returning the book at any of the libraries. The librarians also suggest having a drop box at the nearest e-sampark centre where the readers could drop the book whenever they have to return it, in case they are not able to come to the library.
“Also, we are pushing the administration to allow us to keep the library open for 24 hours instead of the restricted timing of 8 am to 8 pm. Although we already have a provision for converting the books into an audio-visual format here at the library, we plan to introduce a smart device in the library which will help the visually impaired readers to reach the right shelf, once they speak the name of the required book,” says Parveen Khurana, incharge librarian, State Divisional Library, Sector 34. Khurana, who joined the library a few months ago, keeps updating his blog http://divisionallibrary34.blogspot.in/ as well which comprises an online membership form of the library, the list of new books added to the library every month, seven e-papers, e-libraries having 22 lakh books from across the world, and the current affairs.