| Professor Manfred Gerner, German architect, against the backdrop of the books at Max Mueller Bhavan
Max Mueller Bhavan with not a book in sight' This dismal scenario has been narrowly averted by the Calcutta authorities after a decision came from the Goethe Institut, Munich, to transform all the Max Mueller Bhavan (MMB) centres into info-points. Fear ran high that city members would not take to such a move well, and the help of a local “cultural partner” enlisted to ensure that the library’s collection of books and magazines does not stray far.
The MMB branches in Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai were directed, in March, to distribute the hard copies of its German, English and Hindi books to other Indian organisations or to the MMB library in New Delhi. The info-points would have mainly digital resources and users could log on and order books from the Delhi branch, if required. But now, Calcutta director Martin Waelde is optimistic that local users will not be restricted to the options on click. “We have found a partner in Calcutta, located near the centre, who is interested to take the existing collection. But we are still negotiating,” explains Waelde.
Around 8,000 books and some music CDs, cassettes and magazines will be re-housed, and there would be no reduction. This may be the beginning of a more meaningful tie-up, too. “This will be another forum for members to meet and interact. We may also join hands for other cultural events with our partner,” adds the director.
“It is important for me to take books home,” said one of the 600 members of the library in Calcutta. “I don’t have the time to sit at the computer for hours. I read most books at home. If the technological changes set in, I doubt I will be able to use the library.”
The CD-lending services are likely to come to an end, a real blow for lovers of western classical music and jazz. A film archive, though, is on the cards.
The info-points are to open in spring 2004, and MMB hopes they will generate revenue in the next three years. The Bangalore and Mumbai facilities were faced with a cash crunch in the early 90s, but were bailed out by sponsorship from private German companies. But those funds have dried up and the info-points could be the long-term solution they were looking for.
MMB officials feel that members will adjust to the changes at the library. “The initial reaction to change is always negative, but we have to try and reform and upgrade our system,” says Vijeta Uniyal, head, library and information centre, MMB Calcutta.
The regional centre will offer professional information services, including online databanks, document delivery service, newsletters and other online services.
But with budget cuts now clearly affecting services, the fate of MMB, in the long run, is unclear.