Termite trouble is eating into precious pages preserved for posterity.
Giant volumes of Indian National Bibliography (INB), published by the Central Reference Library, are lying on the ground floor of National Library, neglected and termite-ridden.
These INB volumes are considered permanent records of the country's intellectual output. The Central Reference Library, under the Union tourism and culture department, has been publishing the bibliography since 1958.
The books under termite attack number 30,000, with their financial value pegged at around Rs 3 crore.
'We are trying hard to save the books from termites by spraying pesticides. But it is really difficult to protect these books until we get enough space to accommodate them,' said an official of the Central Reference Library.
The volumes were stored by the ground-floor staircase at National Library about three months ago, as the Central Reference Library was faced with a space crunch.
Those not dumped on the ground floor, also in the custody of National Library, are in better condition.
But those by the staircase have proved easy prey for the termites. The Central Reference Library authorities are wary of shifting the partially-damaged books to the first floor, fearing the termite terror will spread to other books on the floor.
With no protective equipment in sight, the Central Reference Library authorities have contacted the department of tourism and culture in Delhi for permission to distribute the books to various Indian universities and other government departments, free.
'We have recently obtained the permission, but it will take time to identify universities and other government departments before despatching these books across the country,' said K.K. Kochhukoshy, librarian, Central Reference Library.
The INB serves scholars, librarians, publishers, booksellers and researchers as a valuable tool of reference.
It has been conceived as an authoritative bibliographical record of current Indian publications in 14 languages received at the National Library under the provisions of the Delivery of Books Act (Public Libraries), 1954.
The volumes are as much for present reference as records for the future.
The department of tourism and culture has, apparently, earmarked adequate space for the Central Reference Library in the newly-constructed Bhasha Bhavan on the National Library grounds.
The library, however, is yet to gain possession of it. 'We will contact the department again about the Bhasha Bhavan space,' said librarian Kochhukoshy, from his office on the National Library campus.