11 out of 12 govt libraries without librarians
Dimapur | August 18
Were public libraries ever really a thing in Nagaland? Save the ones attached to educational institutions, the State Central Library in Kohima run by the Department of Art & Culture was the sole public library that the state could boast of as being functional.
But today, as per the records of the Department, every district headquarters in Nagaland, except Noklak, has a government-run District Library taking the total to 12, including the State Library, Kohima. The bulk of the books are supplied by the Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF).
The figure jumps to a whopping 600-plus across the state if ‘rural libraries’ are accounted for. As disclosed by a Department official, it has registered a total of 601 rural libraries in villages and sub-urban locations across the state to date. “Some districts have around 40-50 rural libraries, while some have as high as 70-80,” said another Department official. Such libraries are said to run independently with support from the department.
Looks like a robust network yet the libraries evoking interest would at best be left to imagination.
The District Library, Dimapur, located in 7th Mile, is said to attract people, who only come for “research purposes.” One of the officials described it as functional and having improved over the past few years.
As entered in the National Mission on Libraries website of the Union Ministry of Culture, it was established in 1987 “but maintenance was slow till 2000 but now it is maintaining well because of the support from RRRLF.”
There was no data as to the number of footfalls it registers on average.
Another official of the department was asked if it would be fair to assume the 11 District Libraries are actively functioning. The official responded, “Maybe not all, but I would not say they are dormant.”
The District Library, Kohima, while it exists, seems eclipsed by the bigger State Central Library as according to the official, most users prefer to opt for the latter. Without attributing figures, the official said that the number of users is increasing as far as the State Library was concerned.
There was little or no information on the District Libraries in places like Mon, Tuensang or Peren.
“I think all the libraries - except Kiphire, Longleng and Peren - should be functioning well,” said a third official. He based the assumption on the number of books supplied annually through the RRRLF, Kolkata.
The officials could not provide data on the number and variety of books made available.
The libraries have a dependable supply source but they lack one essential ingredient. As disclosed by the Department officials, none of the 11 District Libraries has qualified librarian. Only the State Central Library can boast of having one.
Under such circumstances, the libraries are managed by the regular office staff.
“We don’t have trained librarians in the districts. We have been proposing it for many years now. But till now no such post has been created (by the state government),” said one of the officials.
“Because there are no qualified librarians, maybe it is not arranged and organised the way a library should be. But then people do come,” maintained another.
But it’s a must
The necessity to recruit trained librarians to manage the existing government-run libraries was emphasised by Prof. Rosemary Dzuvichu, HoD, Department of English, Nagaland University.
“They get funds to buy books but unless you have a trained librarian (with Library science degrees), who will order good books. Not the office staff surely,” commented Prof. Dzuvichu.
She added that from ordering books worth reading to indenting and arranging, a library requires professional expertise. However, she held that the state has yet to cultivate a “reading public” despite a high literacy rate.
“Most government schools in Nagaland can ill afford textbooks; leave aside library books for reading or reference. I have students coming to university from colleges whose lack of reading books is obvious. Very few Nagas have a childhood of reading fairy tales...”
According to her, the government must give adequate funds for libraries in schools and even in small villages. To make it attractive, she said that the libraries can organise literary competitions too. Reiterating the significance of physical libraries in a place like Nagaland even in the face of the internet ambition, she said, “For Nagaland, yes, till PM Modi’s digital India becomes a reality…”
“A good library is a window to the world outside, not narrowed into typical genres mandated by the National Book Trust or local writings alone,” she added.