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Tears of District Library Udhampur
Jamwal Mahadeep Singh5/1/2019 11:34:00 PM
"A library is an evergreen tree of knowledge. It blossoms throughout the year". We find these lines in department of libraries while exploring on digitization & archival of rare books and manuscripts. The Department of Libraries & Research is upholding the long tradition of public library service in Jammu & Kashmir dating back to AD 1879, when the first public library was set up in the State. The Department is engaged in the dissemination of knowledge and information by way of providing free library and reading room facilities to people of Jammu & Kashmir through its network of public libraries in the State. But when we shoot the picture of District library Udhampur, the evergreen tree of knowledge is not benefitting the populace of Udhampur but shedding its tears like Arjumand Banu Begum popularly known as 'Mumtaj Mahal' in a beautiful building costing Rs. 1.30 crore, that came into existence in the year 2014. The Vision of the Department of Libraries and Research, J&K is to attain a state where every person in J&K is an informed citizen by making ensuring easy and swift access to knowledge and information with a mission to promote the culture of reading, writing and research, to provide books and other reading material to different reading interests, to create and promote an atmosphere of research by providing access to books and manuscripts, to create awareness among people about the written word and to preserve manuscripts for posterity and make them available for researchers and scholars. But Udhampur library can well reply on this aspect of the department as 'building castles in the air'.
When we speak of District Library Udhampur, we trace its establishment somewhere in 1963, when it was located in a single spacious hall on first storey inside old Fire Brigade Complex in the Gole Market of Udhampur. My memories track down to year 1970, when as entrant in 9th class in MLHS School Udhampur, I also obtained membership of the library on security deposit facility. The books those were available at those times, although not in thousands, but having variety of titles that used to cater the all round requirements that may be pertaining to studding subject, collection of novels from renowned writers of the world to general knowledge and encyclopedia. Still after 46 years, the story of a book (in two volumes approximately of 1000 pages each) 'All Men Are Brothers' by 'Shui Hu Chuan' translated from Chinese by Pearl S. Buck (Pearl Sydenstricker Buck) an American writer and novelist, sounds in my memories. This was book kept with me for two months, when I was studding in College in 1973 and has to pay the penalty of Rs two in the library for retaining book beyond permitted period of fifteen days. Mr. Onkar Singh from Ramnagar Tehsil used to be the single hand as librarian catering to all requirements of the upkeep, classification, cataloguing and meeting the requirements of registered members as well as readers in the library.
To re-reconnect with the District library, along with my senior colleague Sh.R C Manotra, rtd.SSP, my visit to library, on 30 April 2019, was a blend of mixed reactions. The building located nearby police station Udhampur stand marked on the Google map and was excellent in view. Somewhere close to number 20 were young buds both male as well as female, preparing for JEE, NEET, AIPMT, UPSC as well as for SPSC in reading hall of the library. Interaction with them yielded that they had been visiting the location for concentrating on their studies as a very peaceful atmosphere prevails here. The spacious hall is fitted with ACs but was non-functional and it was a matter of concern for the regular visitors to this library. We witnessed installation of ten numbers of computers in this reading hall but, the Wi-Fi facility was not a continuous process thus the users expressed their dissatisfaction of this facility. The perpetrators for better future available expressed that the timing of visitation to the library do not suit to them as the library shut down after 6 PM in winter and at 2 PM during summer, where as ideal time for them is betwixt 6 PM to 10 PM. We remember its ever first meeting of District Library Council somewhere in February 2016, when the then DDC Udhampur, Mr. Shahid Iqbal headed the meeting as its chairman to develop District Library as a knowledge hub and provide 24x7 services. The decision taken contains augmentation of the library with books related to competitive examinations, research, biographies, literature, law, engineering, science, humanities and core subjects of Graduation, PG, and specialized examinations that will form a part of library. The library will also have books of Sanskrit, Hindi, Dogri, Gojri and other regional languages as well as on current affairs, General Knowledge arts and social issues along with more than two dozen magazines and newspapers substitution. District Library will also cater to counseling of candidates for various examinations of SSB and PSC apart from providing examination related services. All this sounds very appreciative, but concern to providing of these facilities, is yet a dream of Udhampurians and that is yet in the womb of the concerned department and straight away it is reflection of the lackesdial approach on the part of the concerned department and also on the part of subsequent Chairmen (Deputy Commissioners) of the District Library Council.
It was made us to understand by the senior librarian, that the District Library Udhampur has treasure trove of knowledge, spread over to over 31 thousand books and every year there is supply received somewhere around two thousand books purchased at the directorate level. On classification aspect of these books, a very dismal information was shared and it was made known that against sanctioned strength of senior librarian one post, junior librarian one post, librarian assistant one post, library bearer one post and orderly one post, the library is provided only with one senior librarian and all other posts are lying vacant. Number of correspondence both with the department and local administration has gone like going in the one ear and coming out of the other ear (Kaan Par Jun Na Rengna). The local administration has attached one assistant librarian from a school as a helping hand to cater the district library. Here we will not shy away to write down that the Directorate of Libraries & Research is more interested in purchasing the books of crores of rupees every year (may be a lucrative activity) but it has all neglected about keeping the affairs of the libraries in public interest by not providing the necessary staff for upkeep and classification of these books and the department appears more concerned in making these libraries a dumping ground of books purchased annually by misusing crores of rupees of the tax payers. The department has miserably failed in its activity in preparing inventories, indices, catalogues and other reference media of books and manuscripts available in the library. We have never observed any of the departments' activity in Udhampur such as: holding seminars, debates, book-exhibitions to generate awareness about the written word, promotion of local languages by purchasing books from local authors, and digitization and archival of manuscripts and rare/reference books. The present in charge takes its flight for not holding these activities on the plea of non availability of the staff. We agree 100% on this issue with the officer and charge the directorate for this lapse.
Towards membership of the library, there exists no provision at least in Udhampur library for civilians as the form provided to get enrolment was exclusively meant for the government employees only and it require recommendation by head of the government office for getting membership. We were told that as there exist no provision of any security deposit by civilians/retired government employees to get membership for borrowing books of their interest and concern hence Udhampur Library was helpless for want of instructions from directorate. This all speaks of non application of mind towards this aspect and directorate require to modify the membership rules and provision of security deposit be introduced for hassle free membership for one and all.
Concluding it is not out of context to mention that District Library Udhampur is shedding tears for want of staff, classification of books, lack of membership and thousand numbers of books lying in a well decorated building are like the fate of 'Mumtaj Mahal' resting in Taj Mahal and non is there to view and touch them.
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