At Rajgurunagar Public Library, a rare collection of 24 Marathi books, published between 1832 and 1900, has been digitised and made available on Wikimedia Commons, to be easily accessed by scholars and readers across India, and abroad. The project was undertaken with funding from the Rajya Marathi Vikas Sanstha, a government undertaking.
The library was established in 1862 as ‘General Native Library’ by local social activists, who pooled together religious texts and books that were available. With time, the number of reader-members went up, and the library accumulated a rich heritage of books and periodicals.
As part of the pilot project for the digitisation of the archival Marathi content, a total of 24 books with about 6,300 pages were digitised.
The digitised books (that can be accessed under the ‘Books in Marathi’ section on Wikimedia Commons) include rare books such as Deshi Hunnar (Industrial Crafts in India), Vidhwa Vivah (which summarises arguments for widow remarriage), and a translation of Berquin’s Children’s Books, among others.
According to Rajendra Sutar, honorary secretary of the library, the Rajya Marathi Vikas Sanstha had held a workshop in Thane in February 2018, proposing to undertake a project to digitise archival material from libraries that were over a 100 years old, across the state. “There are a total of 87 such libraries, and our library…has become the first one to participate in the project,” Sutar said.
In the workshop, patrons were taught about proper care of old and delicate books. Education institute Vignyan Ashram (in Pabal) helped the library in the digitisation process. Pupils were trained to scan pages of the books, and to handle them with care.
Scanned pages were also processed through optical character recognition (OCR). The books were thus converted into uni-code, so researchers can read them easily. Yogesh Kulkarni, who represents the Vignyan Ashram, said, “The girls who are a part of this organisation were also familiarised with the technology. They helped these books go digital.”
Subodh Kulkarni, programme officer of the project, said, “The books that are being digitised are ones that are difficult to find. With this project, it has become easier for everyone to search for these books, and students of Marathi, as well as laureates and researchers, can now peruse them for information.”
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