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More than 70,000 public libraries in India and its untapped potential: A study in contrast

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  • 4,028 public libraries in Tamil Nadu that serve its 67.8 million population
  • Tamil Nadu and Karnataka passed their library legislation in 1948 and 1965
  • The public libraries in states that have had their “library legislations” in place for a long time have naturally benefited over the years

New Delhi, May 31, 2017: A meagre total of 75 public libraries are serving the over 200 million population of Uttar Pradesh. Compare this to 4,028 public libraries in Tamil Nadu that serve its 67.8 million population and a study in contrast emerges.

To add to its woes, Uttar Pradesh spends just about Rs 22 crore on its libraries while the amount spent by states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka run into hundreds of crores. Even from the Rs 22 crore that it spends on its public libraries, about Rs 20 crore goes into maintenance and salaries.

Sad as it may sound, the state spends just about Rs 2 crore on outreach activities and on new books.

Why such disparity in the first place?

One reason may be the delay in passing the library legislation by some states. For instance, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka passed their library legislation in 1948 and 1965, respectively, while Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan passed their legislation in 2006; followed by Lakshadweep in 2007, Bihar in 2008, and Chhattisgarh and Arunachal Pradesh in 2009. Several states still do not have a library legislation in place.

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The public libraries in states that have had their “library legislations” in place for a long time have naturally benefited over the years and are better equipped today than their counterparts.

But is that the sole reason?

Perhaps no, when you look at the range of sources from which funds are available for public libraries, and the disinterest of several states in seeking these funds.

The Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF), which is the nodal agency of the government of India to support public library services and systems, has been supporting public as well as private libraries since its inception in 1972.

Its budget runs into a thousand million rupees and it supports approximately 34,000 out of the 70,000 public libraries in India under its various schemes. The irony is that despite the availability of funds, all states do not send in proposals.

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“We can only grant funds if we receive a proposal and are satisfied by it, but so many states, despite repeated letters, do not send their proposals in the first place,” Arun Kumar Chakraborty, Director General, RRRLF, told IANS on the sidelines of an All Stakeholders’ Meeting organised by the Indian Public Library Movement (IPLM) in the capital.

But why do many states fail to utilise available resources to boost their public libraries?

Experts say it is because the librarians and policymakers in several states are not trained in the field. They do not possess the wherewithal to improve the functioning of their libraries and merely continue with a “Chalta Hai” attitude.

IPLM’s recent meeting was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Culture (MoC) and the National Mission on Libraries (NML), RRRLF officials, IPLM partners and directors of Public Library Department/Directorate, their deputies and chief librarians, among others.

Pankaj Rag, Joint Secretary, MoC, encouraged the state governments to utilise the services and funds provided under several initiatives and also enhance their own budget for public libraries.

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In his presentation on RRRLF Schemes and Fund Utilisation, Soumen Sarkar, Deputy Director, RRRLF, mentioned that due to poor fund appropriation by the state governments, they are not able to show utilisation of all the funds received from the Central government which leads to reduction in their proposed budget the next year.

The bottom line that emerges from conversations with these stakeholders is the immense potential of 70,000 public libraries in the country that is yet untapped.

Shubhangi Sharma, Executive Director, IPLM Secretariat, says that there is a need for coordinated efforts by all and support to librarians to tap into available schemes and resources from within the system — in addition to building partnerships and alliances.

“What is required is to build capacities of the human resources available in these institutions to be able to better engage with the community, the surrounding ecosystem; to understand the changing knowledge needs and envision their role as a knowledge partner. Libraries also need to initiate new services, new programmes on the basis of emerging needs and developmental challenges which will help in increasing footfalls,” Sharma said.

While movements like IPLM are working towards helping libraries to become new age knowledge institutions, a concerted effort is needed by the states to improve the condition of libraries in India.

For now, MoC and NML representatives, and the RRRLF appear more than interested in transforming the image of ill-maintained public libraries. To what extent they will succeed remains to be seen. (IANS)

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India Continues Engaging With USA Over H-1B Passport Issue

India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

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As Trump proposes changes in H1-B visa, India continues to engage with US

India is continuing to engage with the US over the H-1B visa, largely availed of by Indian IT companies, after the Trump administration proposed changes to the programme, a senior official said on Thursday.

“It is a very important topic for us and that is the reason why we have time and again at various levels, we have taken up this matter with the US side,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries by journalists here.

Kumar said that most recently, the issue was raised during the first ever India-US 2+2 Ministerial Meeting held here last month that was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019.

India n Passport
It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages Flickr

The DHS said it was also proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.

The move to end the rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visa holders, who have work permits.

The H-4 visas are issued by the USCIS to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa.

The DHS said it will propose to revise the definition of speciality occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.

It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said.

Donald Trump, India
President Donald Trump speaks about immigration alongside family members affected by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, June 22, 2018, in Washington, VOA

In his remarks on Thursday, Kumar said that India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

Stating that there are certain bills which have been introduced, he, however, said that “it is important to note that none of these bills have been passed so far”.

“When we have engaged with the US, we have emphasised that our partnership which we have in the digital sphere have been mutually beneficial,” the spokesperson said.

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“We have highlighted the role which has been played by the highly skilled Indian professionals who have actually contributed to the growth and development of the US economy,” he stated.

“And also they have helped the US to maintain a competitive edge in the world towards innovation and science and technology.” (IANS)