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Library blues over tenth Berlin block

The National Library is smarting over the Union government’s refusal to allow it to attend the 69th conference of the International Federation of Libraries Association (IFLA), scheduled to be held in Berlin from August 1. About 200 countries will send their representatives to the eight-day conference.

There will be a special session for the directors of national libraries of different countries, at which librarians of global repute will discuss aspects of library management in modern society. The IFLA had invited National Library director Ramanuj Bhattacharjee to Berlin, but Delhi has yet to convey its nod.

This is the tenth time the library plea to attend the Berlin meet has been turned down, point out angry employees. It was learnt that the Union government had cited financial constraints for blocking the earlier pleas. “Though our requests were rejected on the pretext that Delhi was facing an acute financial crisis, the Central Secretariat Library at Shastri Bhavan and Parliament Library (both in Delhi) were allowed to attend the Berlin conference,” said a spokesperson for the National Library Staff Association (NLSA).

Library director Bhattacharjee said he had received the IFLA invitation about 15 days ago. “I had informed Delhi about it and sought permission to attend the conference. To date, however, I have not received any okay from Delhi,” he added.

Senior library officials confirmed that the Centre had been refusing National Library’s plea for attending the conference for the past 10 years. “IFLA has about 600 members from 200 countries and they hold an international conference on library affairs every year. But for the past 10 years, National Library is not being allowed to attend, the reason for which is best known to Delhi,” said one of them.

“Our library is one of the oldest and most prestigious run by the government of India. There are about 60,000 public libraries in our country. But our representation in any international event, compared with the large number of libraries in the country, is not satisfactory. Even small countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka are sending more delegates than us to such an international event,” the official added.

There is a budgetary allocation of Rs 1 lakh for attendance at such international events, the official said. “Naturally, we are not going to buy the central government’s argument that it has no money. How can it allow small departmental libraries to attend the Berlin meet and ignore our plea'” he asked.

The NLSA spokesperson said its members will oppose the Delhi veto. “We consider the move an insult to our library, to our state and the eastern region. We will write to all the parliamentarians from Bengal and urge them to take up the issue with the Union government in the floor of Parliament,” he added.

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