The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Crores for libraries

New Delhi, July 29: From the National Library to your college reading room, libraries will cease to be dingy, poorly lit halls with badly maintained catalogues.

The Centre will spend Rs 1,000 crore on libraries, big and small, across the nation, upgrading their treasure of books, manuscripts and transcripts and polishing up their ambience.

Calcutta’s National Library, the only library to find mention in the Indian Constitution as an institute of excellence, is likely to be the first to benefit when the National Mission on Library and Information Services (NMLIS) gets off the ground in October.

“Libraries have been neglected for 60 years since Independence. It’s great that the Centre has woken up,” said K.K. Banerjee, director of the Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation, Calcutta.

Culture ministry officials are working on the final details of the mission, which will monitor all libraries — from those in schools, universities and research bodies to the public or private ones.

The proposal by the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) has been cleared by the Planning Commission as part of the next five-year plan. The private sector will be tapped for another Rs 1,000 crore, officials said.

The libraries will be urged to “make their ambience appealing” to try and reverse the trend of people turning away from them.

“People who can’t afford to buy books don’t have a good place to go and get books,” said Kalpana Dasgupta, chairperson of the NKC’s working group on libraries.

Officials said the body would be autonomous. “The Prime Minister has backed the proposal for… an independent and autonomous body so it isn’t caught in political or bureaucratic hassles,” a culture ministry official said.

In three years, the NMLIS will draft a Library Charter — a set of guidelines on quality that every library must follow to be recognised as one.

Those that do can get aid to upgrade themselves; those that don’t will no longer be recognised as libraries.

The recognised libraries will be networked to each other so that a researcher sitting at his terminal can pinpoint the exact library that houses the rare documents he seeks.

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