Srinagar: The Centre has earmarked a whopping Rs 5000 crores for the year 2023-24 for upgrading infrastructure in public libraries and extending library facilities at the Gram Panchayat level.
An official spokesman in a statement issued here said that in his opening remarks at the two-day meeting of J&K UT-Level Library Advisory-cum-Purchase Committee (UTLLACPC), which began at SPS Library Complex here on Sunday, Director General, National Library of India (NLI) and Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF) Prof Ajay Pratap Singh said that it was for the first time that such a huge amount had been earmarked, in one go, by the Centre for upgrading library infrastructure in the states and union territories.
He said extension of library facilities and taking the library movement to the grassroots level was 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).
Prof Singh said that the Union Ministry of Finance had already sought proposals from all the states and UTs 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 and 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, 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 River Jhelum bank and around Dal Lake for tourists and morning walkers.
Earlier, welcoming the participants at the meeting, the Director, Libraries and Research, Muhammad 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 that the huge increase in footfall in the public libraries had put immense pressure on library resources and there was 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 UT 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.
The 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 digitisation of libraries; establishment of theme-based libraries-cum-reading centres at tourist resorts, setting up of dedicated reading areas for travellers at Srinagar and Jammu airports, collaboration with School Education Department to organise free coaching of students for various competitive exams, organising book fair at Srinagar and Jammu in collaboration with National Book Trust (NBT), setting up of ‘book village’ at Aragam in Bandipora as a joint initiative of the Department of Libraries and Research; district administration Bandipora, and Pune-based NGO ‘Sarhad’ setting up of public library-cum-reading room at Gandtal, Harwan under Aspirational Blocks Development Programme (ABDP) in convergence with the Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, extension of internet facility to the public libraries at tehsil and block levels, weeding out of obsolete books and reference material for competitive examinations, write off the damaged and lost books, conservation of books and 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 and 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 Deputy Director, J&K Board of School Education, Arif; journalist Saleem Pandit; expert Hindi language Satish Vimal; expert Urdu language, Liaqat Jafri; expert Kashmiri language, Ghulam Nabi Haleem; expert Punjabi language, Surinder Neer; Parvez Majeed of media studies, and Kulbushan Malhotra.
The meeting was also attended by Deputy Director, Libraries Kashmir and Jammu; Assistant Director, Libraries and Research Kashmir; Chief Librarians of Oriental Research Library Srinagar and SPS Library Srinagar and other officials.
The 16-member J&K UT-Level Library Advisory-cum-Purchase Committee (UTLLACPC) was constituted by the J&K government in February 2021 to recommend measures for development of the library services and upgradation of library facilities in J&K.
The committee also makes a selection of books to be purchased by the Libraries Department for its libraries.