Following a High Court order two weeks ago to move books from its dilapidated Karol Bagh branch to keep them safe from the rain, the Delhi Public Library (DPL) has a challenging task on its hands — shifting over 85,000 books 28 km away to Bawana in the coming weeks.
Director General of Delhi Public Library Dr Lokesh Kumar said the pride of the library is its extensive encyclopedia collection. “There are over 85,000 books. Name any encyclopedia and you’ll find it there. They’re very expensive too,” he said.
Citing damage to the ground floor ceiling, the HC had ordered that the books be moved to avoid damage by rainwater.
Since 1964, the 54-year-old library has occupied the ground floor of the premises on rent. In the last two years, however, it has been embroiled in a legal dispute.
It began with the North Corporation issuing a notice for the closure of the library in September 2016, stating that the building housing it is “dangerous” due to its dilapidated state.
In the meantime, the original owners sold the building — a fact that DPL authorities claimed they weren’t informed about. The new owners began demolishing the upper storeys even as the library continued to function and house all its books, making the structure even more precarious. In 2016, the library shut shop. Following a HC order in December 2017, it was sealed with the books inside.
According to Kumar, the library had always catered to a large number of readers. “We wanted the books to be shifted to an area not too far away, so that they can be accessible to the people who have been deprived of these books all this while. However, that was simply not possible due to lack of space.”
He said they had initially planned to expand the library premises to its Patel Nagar branch in order to accommodate the Karol Bagh collection, but were unable to get permission to construct either vertically or horizontally due to CPWD and MCD regulations. “We now have to shift it temporarily to a large new property that we have built in Bawana, which will be inaugurated as a new library by October 2. The books will be shifted in batches in trucks… it will be a long process,” he said.
The final fate of the Karol Bagh library is currently uncertain, with its authorities asking that the property owners move them back to the old property once reconstruction is completed.