Read Mittar e-Paper
The richest person in the world - in fact all the riches in the world - couldn’t provide you with anything like the endless, incredible loot available at your local library. —Malcolm Forbes The oldest and largest public library of the country and one of the best things the British Raj left for the land, the Punjab Public Library, is having two-month-long quasquicentennial anniversary celebrations. Various events like seminars on Allama Iqbal and the importance of public libraries are being arranged besides a weeklong exhibition of books and journals on Iqbaliat. The Punjab Public Library was set up by Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab Sir Charles Aitchison who issued a notification for its establishment on November 7, 1884 and it was formally inaugurated on December 21, 1885. Sir Aitchison donated his own library, consisting of 75 books, to start the library and other philanthropists like Dyal Singh also contributed to the noble cause later on. The
 library was started in the Wazir Khan’s Baradari. The Baradari has an exciting history of its own. The construction of the Baradari was ordered by Governor of Lahore Wazir Khan in 1634 in Shah Jahan’s era around the same time when the construction of Masjid Wazir Khan was started. There was a grand garden around the Baradari which was taken over by the construction of government buildings with the passage of time. The Baradari remained a garrison for Sikh army in Ranjit Singh era, the settlement office for the East India Company and then the first telegraph office in the city during the British rule. It also housed the first Lahore Museum and became the Anarkali Book Club to be used only the Gora officers. New building and blocks of the library were erected in various phases in 1924, 1939 and 1992. Now the Baradari is currently used as a newspaper readers’ section, frequented even by those who are not library members. The Punjab Public Library has
 about 400,000 books, including 5,000 books in Gurmukhi, Sanskrit, Gujrati and Marathi languages, and around 3,000 rare manuscripts. It has around 4,000 general members, 2,000 students and 1,500 children members. The library is afflicted by multiple issues and the cause of the most of its problems is lack of funds. Muhammad Tufail, the chief librarian of the Quaid-e-Azam library who has been given the additional charge of the Punjab Public Library, says that lack of funds has the domino effect and most of the problems of the library will be resolved if it gets adequate funds from the government. He says that the issue is so severe that the expenses for whitewash of the library auditorium were arranged by selling the newspaper waste. The library needed Rs 30 million for the current year while only about Rs 16 million were granted and after paying salaries to the staff, only Rs 400,000 would be left for utility bills and buying books. The library needs
 another block which would cost around Rs 50 million while it requires Rs 5 million for buying new books. It also needs funds for digitisation of books, fumigation of old books and other repair work. The 125th year of the library bought new troubles with it. Earlier, the library was being controlled by a managing committee under the chairmanship of the Higher Education secretary. Five life members of the library used to be a part of the committee as well. A tussle arose between committee members and the chairman which led to litigation. There were differences between the chief librarian and the committee chairman and corruption charges were also levelled against the latter. Ultimately, the Punjab government took the library under its direct control on May 8, 2009 and gave its charge, for the time being, to the chief librarian of the Quaid-e-Azam Library, Muhammad Tufail. Its name was also changed from Punjab Public Library to Government Punjab Public
 Library. One wonders whether the change in name will change its fate. Muhammad Tufail says that the library will get rid of its management problems once it has a board of governors to look after its affairs for which proposals have been sent to the government. Now when the Punjab government is at the helm of the affairs of the library, it should bring about some improvement. The required funds should be immediately released to fulfil the library needs and to preserve its priceless collection of books and manuscripts. When one sees the recent list of the National Reconciliation Ordinance beneficiaries, which includes our top leaders and bureaucrats, one wonders why a few hundred thousand rupees can’t be spent on a public library. Perhaps because a library is a house of learning and part and parcel of education and our leaders don’t want educated masses who can challenge their exploitative rule

Leave a Reply.