Public libraries of Chenab region in doldrums

FARID AHMED Zargar
KISHTWAR, NOV 18: Public Libraries in all the three districts of Chenab region, which used to be visited by readers and students two decades ago, are in shambles today mainly due to shortage of staff and lack of monitoring by the concerned authorities. As of now, very few readers visit some of these libraries. Moreover, other libraries located in remote areas of Padder and Dacchan in Kishtwar district, Thathri in Doda district and Gool in Ramban district are in limbo too.
About 60 years old Government District Library Doda is headless for the last two decades after the retirement of the then Chief Librarian in the year 1997. Sources in the Department informed that few years back, a Chief Librarian was posted in the library but was later retained in Kashmir division. In the absence of the Chief Librarian, the drawing and disbursing powers in respect of nine libraries falling under the administrative control of District Library Doda rest with Chief Education Officer, Doda.
With no immediate boss to supervise routine work of libraries in Chenab region, work in these libraries is suffering for the last 20 years. Some libraries are even manned by junior officials. Tehsil Library Ramban is being run by a single junior librarian posted only some months ago. Prior to that, a Library Assistant used to run the show. Tehsil Library Gool in Ramban district is manned by a Library Assistant. The Junior Librarian of Tehsil Library Thathri has been attached with Tehsil Library Bhaderwah leaving this Library at the mercy of a class-IV employee. Library Assistant of Tehsil Library Kishtwar has been attached with Surankote Library in Poonch. The Library Assistant of Tehsil Library Bhaderwah stands attached with Mendhar Library in Poonch. The post of Junior Librarian is vacant in Tehsil Library Dachhan in Kishtwar. Block Library Paddar in Kishtwar is being run by a class-IV employee while the Library Assistant has been attached with Tehsil Library Ramban. The Block Library Ghat, just 2 Km away from District Library Doda is also being run by a Library Bearer while the Library Assistant has been attached with DL Doda. Tehsil Library Banihal is also functioning without a Library Bearer and the institution is being looked after by a Junior Librarian.
Though books are supplied yearly to libraries of Chenab region, their classification and cataloguing could not be made in absence of well-trained staff. Non-classification of titles makes it cumbersome for a borrower to locate a book amongst thousands displayed randomly on shelves. The selection of books is made by the Directorate without keeping in view local reading tastes and requirements. The purchase of books in bulk may be profitable for the Directorate but in no way benefits readers and book lovers. The earlier procedure of book selection by local advisory committee needs to be revived to make libraries beneficial for the people.
Though local as well as some national newspapers can be seen in reading rooms of some libraries, there are no magazines and other periodicals available for readers. Libraries of Padder, Gool and Dachhan even lack availability of local newspapers.
Except District Library Doda, all other eight libraries are housed in private accommodations located in obscure corners or congested localities. With trifurcation of erstwhile Doda district in 2007, the Libraries located at the District headquarters of Kishtwar and Ramban are yet to be upgraded.
Dy Director Libraries, Jammu when contacted by ‘Greater Jammu’ said that posting of Chief Librarian or referring post to PSC is responsibility of the Directorate of Libraries and Research. “Readers of District Library Doda demanding supply of magazines in different languages should submit a representation in this regard to the Director Libraries,” she suggested.