In ancient times, libraries were known as ‘temples of soul’; it was a place where knowledge was available to all. Even in this age of information explosion, libraries have not lost their importance, especially in India where a sizeable number of population do not have the means and opportunity to education. However, the government has not done enough to promote reading habits through public libraries, despite promulgating a law as early as 1967, said Shankar Gavhane, director, Pune district library association.
The Maharashtra Public Libraries Act was passed in 1967 at the Nagpur Session of the Maharashtra Legislature. It was brought into force on May 1, 1968, the Maharashtra Day. The Act provides for uniform Public Library System in the state and uniform scale of grant-in-aid.
According to the provisions of the Act, every village in the state should have a public library. According to Gavhane, this is easier said than done. “When there are villages without schools, how can you expect libraries in every village,” he said. The state gives grants to these libraries, but this is after a library is opened by a local trust. The trust then registers the library with the charity commissioner, after which the grant is issued. Gavhane said the process needs time and bureaucratic known-how, not to mention an existing infrastructure, and for most villagers, the task is daunting.
As a result, schoolchildren in the villages are missing out on an important facility to help their growth. Gavhane, also an assistant librarian with a reputed city-based college, understands the importance of the role public libraries can play and, is working towards spreading awareness about the need for public libraries in every village in the state.
According to census records, the 35 districts in the state have 43,722 villages. Pune district alone has around 1,866 villages. However, said Gavhane, there are only 600 public libraries in the district and this is indeed a paltry number.
Gavhane also wants greater connectivity among the existing libraries...
(I was working on this a while ago, but it did not come to fruition. Pity.)