Fifty three years after opening, Karol Bagh’s Delhi Public Library fights for survival

Today, the building which houses the library has been termed “dangerous” by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, with an order for closure being passed on September 17.

Written by Aneesha Mathur | New Delhi | Published:November 19, 2016 3:11 am
 Karol Bagh’s Delhi Public Library, libarary, karol bagh library, delhi high court, urdu books, NDMC, Karol Bagh library close, indian express news, india news, delhi, delhi news The library opened in 1963. Source: Aneesha Mathur

WHEN Kailash Kumar joined as a peon at Karol Bagh’s Delhi Public Library (DPL) in 1984, there was a vibrant community of readers and library members — including the family of the owners of the building, who would come and read old Urdu books.

Today, the building which houses the library has been termed “dangerous” by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, with an order for closure being passed on September 17.

But a group of members approached the Delhi High Court earlier this week, claiming that the building owners’ family had sold it to a private company illegally. Last week, the company that now owns the building started demolition — even though thousands of books remain inside. The HC has, for now, issued a stay on the demolition, and the DPL board has said it will take “all possible steps” to ensure that the library does not shut down.

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The library, the “zonal centre” for the north Delhi branch, was opened in 1963 in a rented premises of an old residence. “Students would visit to refer to textbooks not available in government schools. Now, we have reference books for all streams but fewer people use them,” says 60-year-old Kumar. The library also introduced free internet services for readers in 2012, he said.

With 27,000 members, the library has about 6,000 regular readers, and 150-200 people visit every day to read books and newspapers. “We are allowing people to return books they borrowed and are doing our own paperwork. Otherwise, the library is closed,” says librarian KL Meena.

“Some of the children who studied here went on to become IAS and IPS officers. I know one girl who used to study in the library, who is now a judge,” says Kumar.

Ramsharan Gaur, chairman of the DPL Board, says they will “continue to fight” to ensure that the library is not shut down.

But the DPL has not hired new employees for several years and the old ones are nearing retirement age. “I don’t think anyone has been appointed since 1995. Many DPL branches have shut down because the lease on the building has expired or because of employee shortage,” says an employee.