Srinagar: The Government of India has earmarked whopping Rs 5000 crores for the year 2023-24 for upgrading infrastructure in Public Libraries and extending Library facilities to the Gram Panchayat level across the country.
This was announced by Prof Ajay Pratap Singh, Director General, National Library of India (NLI) and Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF) in his opening remarks at the two-day meeting of J&K Library Advisory-cum-Purchase Committee which began at SPS Library Complex here on Sunday.
Prof Singh said, it is for the first time, that such a huge amount has been earmarked, in one go, by the Government of India for upgrading library infrastructure in the States & UTs. He said extension of library facilities and taking the library movement to the grassroots level is aimed at facilitating improved access of the children and adolescents in the rural and semi-urban areas to the latest books and e-connecting them to the vast learning resources available through National Digital Library of India (NDLI).
He said the Union Ministry of Finance has already sought proposals from all the States and Union Territories under the scheme as the funding for upgrading infrastructure in Public Libraries and providing Library facilities at the Gram Panchayat level would be available on “First-Come-First-Serve” basis. “A communication in this regard has been sent by the Department of Expenditure, Union Ministry of Finance to the Chief Secretaries of all the States & UTs in May 2023,” he said.
Enumerating the broader contours of the scheme, Prof Singh said that funding under the scheme would be available to the states and UTs for construction of new library buildings; renovation of existing libraries; purchase of library furniture; purchase of IT equipment including computers, printers, networking etc and purchase of books. He said financial assistance under the scheme would be limited to one Library in each Municipal Ward and one Library in each Gram Panchayat.
Prof Singh said J&K’s Libraries Department should also explore the possibility of establishing decent reading spaces, in convergence with related departments, at the Public Parks, Gardens, along Jhelum River bank and around Dal Lake for tourists and morning walkers.
Earlier, welcoming the participants at the meeting, the Director, Libraries & Research, Mr Mohammad Rafi gave an overview of the initiatives taken by the Department to upgrade the infrastructure in Public Libraries and provide best possible facilities to the library users. He said the huge increase in footfall in the Public Libraries has put immense pressure on library resources and there is a pressing need for upgrading the infrastructure especially the library furniture.
The Director Libraries sought the intervention of Director General RRRLF to facilitate early release of funds under National Mission on Libraries (NML) from RRRLF for construction of buildings for Gani Memorial J&K Central Library at Rajouri Kadal Srinagar and District Library Samba. He also pressed for release of RRRLF financial assistance under Matching Grant Scheme for upgrading furniture in Public Libraries.
UT-Level Library Advisory-cum-Purchase Committee discussed and approved various proposals put forth by the Director, Libraries and Research for upgradation and expansion of Public Library facilities in J&K. These include, Digitization of Libraries; establishment of theme-based Libraries-cum-Reading Centres at tourist resorts, setting up of dedicated Reading Areas for travellers at Srinagar & Jammu Airports, collaboration with School Education Department to organize free coaching of students for various competitive exams, organizing Book Fair at Srinagar and Jammu in collaboration with National Book Trust (NBT), setting up of “Book Village” at Aragam in District Bandipora as a joint initiative of the Department of Libraries & Research; District Administration Bandipora and Pune-based NGO “Sarhad”, setting up of Public Library-cum-Reading Room at Gandtal, Harwan under Aspirational Blocks Development Program (ABDP) in convergence with the Department of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj, extension of Internet facility to the Public Libraries at Tehsil & Block levels, weeding out of obsolete books & reference material for Competitive Examinations, write off the damaged/lost books, conservation of books & manuscripts, procurement of e-Books and making available more Online Services to the Library Users.
UTLLACPC approved the list of books under various categories to be purchased by the Department of Libraries & Research for its Libraries during the year 2023-24.
The meeting was informed that J&K has the distinction of having the oldest libraries in the country including SRS Library Jammu established in 1879 and SPS Library Srinagar established in 1898.
UTLLACPC members who attended the 4th meeting of the forum included Dr Arif, Dy Director, J&K Board of School Education; Mr Saleem Pandit, Journalist; Mr Satish Vimal, expert Hindi language; Mr Liaqat Jafri, expert Urdu language; Mr Ghulam Nabi Haleem, expert Kashmiri Language; Ms Surinder Neer, expert Punjabi Language; Prof Parvez Majeed, Media Studies and Mr Kulbushan Malhotra.
Besides UTLLACPC members, the meeting was attended by Deputy Director, Libraries Jammu/Kashmir; Assistant Director, Libraries & Research Kashmir; Chief Librarians of Oriental Research Library Srinagar & SPS Library Srinagar and other officials.
Pertinently, 16-member J&K Library Advisory-cum-Purchase Committee was constituted by J&K Government in February 2021 to recommend measures for development of the library services and upgradation of library facilities in the J&K. The Committee also makes selection of books to be purchased by the Libraries Department for its libraries.