Saturday, 13 July, 2024

Enhance Public Libraries

The library is an arena of possibility, opening both a window into the soul and a door onto the world, writes Rita Frances Dove, an African American poet. Dove is right in her assessment of the importance of library that offers intellectual space to the people. It is not just the collection of books and sources of vast information but also a serene place where the visitors reflect on material and metaphysical aspects of life. It gives the ideas about the cognitive growth of people. In human history, library has served as the barometer of human civilisation. The first library, found in Sumer located in the present day Iraq in 2600 BC, points to one of the earliest civilisations on earth. It contained the most primitive form of writing-- the clay tablets in cuneiform script. The Sumer civilisation (4500 -1900 BC) marks the end of prehistoric age and the start of historic era. Likewise, libraries established in ancient Greece, Egypt and Indian subcontinent amply suggest the development stage of society as well as the people’s rational and moral behaviours.

In modern time, libraries have spurred the pedagogic, academic and political activities. Public libraries spread consciousness, knowledge and wisdom to the people. This is a reason why autocratic rulers disdain the establishment of such awareness-generating institutions. During the Rana rule, writers, poets and revolutionaries were harshly punished for secretly opening a library in Kathmandu. Nowadays it has become a norm for all schools and colleges to run libraries to facilitate the students’ curricular and extra-curricular activities. They provide both physical and digital access to materials. They can be both physical and virtual ones. They have a wide range of collections including books, newspapers, manuscripts, films, maps, documents, microform, CDs, e-books, audiobooks and so on.

No doubt there is a growing trend of establishing digital libraries but the news report carried out by this daily reveals that the young people still like to visit the conventional libraries for a variety of reasons. Nepal has thousands of libraries that satisfy the educational, informational and intellectual desires of the visitors. Kaiser Library, located at the heart of the capital city, contains valuable books, newspapers, manuscripts and paintings. Everyday 100-150 people visit the library to study. Come summer, the number rises to 200-250. Another interesting part is that the number of people visiting different libraries in the Kathmandu Valley has grown. One reason behind this positive trend is the peaceful environment that these libraries provide to the readers.

Another important factor is the availability of valuable yet expensive books. Many people do not afford to buy costly books so the voracious readers do not want to lose the opportunity to read historic and philosophical tomes available in the famous libraries of the city. Those who long to go through the different newspapers, periodicals and magazines also step into the libraries so that they can enhance their perspectives on the contemporary issues. This is certainly an encouraging phenomenon that people have been switched to the traditional libraries. This will immensely contribute to the reading culture in the society, which has declined owing to Internet-driven digital and social media. The government should modernise and digitise the conventional libraries to sustain the people’s interest in them.