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State public libraries gasp for breath

Gujarat has about 124 public libraries,while nearly 4,000 village libraries exist on paper. According to Chief State Librarian Varsha Mehta,about 2,500 libraries regularly send their accounts...

ANUPAM CHAKRAVARTTY

VADODARA,JUNE 7

Libraries in Gujarat are dying a slow death even though Gujarat had passed an Act (Gujarat Public Libraries Act) in 2001 along with eight other states to revive the public library system. In Anand district,an educational hub,183 village libraries out of 350 shut down over a period of one-and-a-half years.

Village libraries suffer because they do not have anyone to look after them except for a guard.

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P C Shah of Gujarat Granthalaya Seva Sangh (GGSS) — an Ahmedabad-based private non-profit organisation working for protection of the libraries — however,said village libraries are an integral part of the Gaekwadi culture. Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III had issued compulsory notices to villages to have one library that would be maintained by the administration.

“But these libraries get only

Rs 2,000 a year for maintenance,” added Shah. Maintenance means not just paying the guard or the librarian,but also administering DDT so that the old books are not damaged.

On her part,Chief State Librarian Varsha Mehta said those responsible for village libraries do not keep

accounts of the expenditure incurred by the library.

“They are mismanaged,” Mehta said,adding: “Nobody wants them except for an occasional curious visitor. When the representatives come for annual accounts,most of them do not have data. So,it becomes difficult for us to give them any fund.” Secondly,these libraries are shutting down because the fund amount in itself is paltry — Rs 5,000. “It is not enough to maintain a library,pay the staff,buy new books,pay electricity bills and the like,” Mehta added.

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Shah,a retired bureaucrat,feels it is the callousness of the successive governments that is forcing these libraries to shut down. He rues the Gujarat Public Libraries Act of 2001,which he describes as “non-committal” with no clear-cut policy for the libraries.

“Of the 12 states where the Libraries Bill was introduced in 2001,Gujarat was one of the nine to pass it. But they have not done a single thing to implement it. While Goa and Kerala have allocated a specific budget for the libraries,in Gujarat,there was no mention of revival of public libraries in the budget,” added Shah,who had organised a seminar for librarians across the state last year to celebrate the silver jubilee of the GGSS.

The real picture

Gujarat has about 124 public libraries,while nearly 4,000 village libraries exist on paper. According to Chief State Librarian Varsha Mehta,about 2,500 libraries regularly send their accounts,but 1,500 are yet to produce their expenditure reports. “The libraries get a grant of about Rs 2,000 annually depending on their size. Bigger libraries can get up to Rs 5,000,” added Mehta. She further said that about 200 children’s libraries are being given financial support of Rs 5,000 a year in the state. In order to start a new village library,permission must be sought from the Department of Primary Education and the village must have over 5,000 families,said Mehta. Forty per cent of the funds must be used to buy new books.

First published on: 08-06-2009 at 01:47:35 am
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