“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Forget books, even free internet does not overcome public indifference towards libraries

Trove Of Knowledge Lies Shunned, Ignored

Srinagar: A rare collection of almost 80,000 books has failed to evoke any interest from the book lover. The treasure trove of rare books in piled up in one of the oldest libraries in the valley but most of the books have remained unread.

The Sri Pratap Singh (SPS) Central library at Lal Mandi Srinagar is the oldest library in Srinagar. Armed with 80,000 books on a wide range of subjects the library has now turned high tech with the introduction of internet facilities also.

“Most of the times I have come to the library I have found it deserted as people in the city and elsewhere lack awareness about the literary assistance they can get from this library,” Bashir Ahmad, a retired teacher said. Bashir Ahmad blamed the present curriculum for this state of affairs. “Students in most of the schools have been put under tremendous pressure and stress to devote most of their time in academic studies,” he added.

The Sri Pratap Singh library was established in 1898. It is a free, government-run facility with just a few hundred registered members. The assets of this library range from pre-historical to modern times, from newspapers to philosophical texts and from modern studies to religious manuscripts.

Most people who visit this library prefer to read current affairs besides books on general studies. The visitors by and large belong to student community and engage themselves with material other than their academic subjects. Subject related books are either not available or are obsolete. “I mostly read newspapers and magazines. Books related to my subject are not available here”, says Irfan Bashir, a B.Sc student and a regular member of SPS Library.

The administrators of this library feel that books related to the academic syllabus are available in School and College libraries, so their prime focus is on books of general significance. “The syllabus oriented books are available in academic institutions so we prefer to procure books of wider scope and greater interest”, says Kuldeep Singh, Deputy Director, Book purchasing committee, SPS library.

In April 2006, internet was introduced in the library and a separate membership, almost free of cost, was started. But even this facility failed to generate interest among the visitors of the library. During their visit to the internet parlor of the library, reporters found that all computers were turned off and there was not even a single user browsing the net.

“Due to lack of awareness, such a facility goes waste. The administration did try to popularize this library but at the same time the reading habits of the people became an impediment for us,” Kuldeep Singh said. “People lack awareness, and media can be used to publicize this library. But I think that our city has a low number of readers, and people prefer TV to books,” he said.