A library with a 'difference'

Come spring, the rat race picks up as the students from different pockets converge in the town. The crowd adds charm to the main market which otherwise looks sleepy during winters. As people pour in, they give it a festive look. Amid the din, a treasure trove has become talk of the town for a variety of reasons. It is a six-room building which houses thousands of books of different categories. It is district library Baramulla.

Argentine writer and librarian, Jorge Luis Borges writes, “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of a library”. Perhaps conquered with this thought, throughout the day, the cream or (whom we call) the intellectual class and scores of students remain busy in healthy literary discussions and debates here. I am a bibliophile and book is my first love. Whenever I donate, date or dust my bookshelves, I always share a wet-kiss with my books.

The dying habit of book reading among youngsters continues to remain a concern for the staff here though they organize functions in schools and colleges in which they persuade students to visit libraries and minimize e-reading. The library staff organizes literary meetings, seminars, debates, Mushairas Where poets/literary giants of the district assemble to showcase their talent in collaboration with Baramulla Writers Forum (BWF), a group of local literary figures. Moreover, world book day on April 23rd and world literacy day on September 8th is observed with enthusiasm and fervor. They guide the borrowers. It is like as second home. Reading room remains abuzz, jam-packed where the literature lovers keep engrossed in various books, references, magazines, journals and newspapers. Galaxy of scholars explores the rich reference section with rare collection of Kashmir and Islamic history.

Library is considered to be a magical place of learning, reading, discussions and having fun. Library is a place to stay connected with ever-increasing amounts of data to find the core of knowledge in the ever-increasing deluge of data. A library is but more than a building-a treasure house of knowledge. Good books comfort and console us like a good friend in both times of elation and distress. Book reading develops creative and critical thinking rather than spoon-feeding.

Reading habits are declining and internet is a major distracter. No doubt there is a barrage of data accessible but these days majority of netizens opine that it is hard to limit internet for productive purposes because it wastes our time on fruitless surfing as it is inescapable. Reading books contribute towards the enrichment of our knowledge in terms of human experience and information. Reading good book refreshes our ideas and thought process. We plan and prioritize things when we read quality stuff. While reading different genres of books I find myself exposed to new dreams. Hold on! If daily stress overshadows you, here is a remedy:  “Book reading reduces stress but for this purpose you have to minimize net surfing as much as you can.” But the million dollar question remains what prompts the young brigade to stay away from once our ‘Lifeline’. Why has it turned lifeless and dejected? Is it because book reading requires patience which is extinct in today’s materialistic world where everyone paces towards nowhere. Internet is killing books and the death of bookstores may have catastrophic consequences in near future. The library in question is a hope for the residents of my district.

But there are few grey shades which if addressed would help a great deal. The library is situated on the fifth story of a shopping complex (owned by Auqaf Committee) which results in a lot of inconvenience for senior citizens. Oldies struggle to climb the stairs.  Noise irks readers. It is located in a crowded vegetable market where silence is drowned in hollering of vendors and honking of vehicles. Staff is less but cooperative. Shortage of staff is a severe issue. One Librarian and a library bearer manage all the six rooms.

Off late, computers were installed for students preparing for various competitive exams but they are gathering dust as operators have not been deployed. Leakage in washroom stinks. Ex-Director Mukhtar-ul-Aziz had assured that all the facilities including fans and Xerox machine will be made available but nothing productive happened so far. On a parting note, I hope against hope that the indifferent administration at the department of Libraries and Research will shortly shift the library to a calmer place.