New Delhi’s public libraries have steadily increased their members and readers over the last five years. In early 2015, the Ministry of Culture had announced modernisation plans for public libraries in the country including those in the national capital.
Under the government initiative, the capital’s Delhi Public Library and Central Secretariat Library were also allocated funds for the revamp. Over time, the libraries were connected to DELNET library network and upgraded with specialised internet access services. On 28 December 2015, the Ministry of Culture announced upgradation grants of Rs 234.38 lakh for DPL and Rs 452.38 lakh for CSL out of the Rs 400 crore scheme — “National Mission of Libraries – Up-gradation of Libraries – Providing Services to the Public”.
Delhi Public Library (DPL) is an autonomous body and funded by the Ministry of Culture. The DPL network has a Central Library at S.P. Mukherjee Marg, and four zonal libraries. It also has 24 sub-branch libraries, one community library, nine resettlement colonies libraries, one braille library, 82 mobile service points (including 20 braille mobile library points) and 25 deposit stations. Till December 2016, the DPL had increased its stock of books to 17,80,670. During 2015-16, as many as 4,22,125 readers used reading rooms in these libraries and over 12 lakh books were lent by all branches. However, the online service is still to pick up with only 43,220 visits registered on the DPL website through the year. In 2011-12, DPL had a membership of 76,548 people. This number increased to 1,36,169 by December 2015 according to the Ministry of Culture’s annual report.
The Central Library, near Chandni Chowk Metro Station, is the first library opened by the Delhi Public Library in 1951. It holds a vast collection of reference material for higher-level academic research. Large sections are particulkarly dedicated to Hindi literature, with rare collections from authors of the new generation to the bygone era. However, the condition of the books are worrisome.
“The government and the administration should spend on maintaining its cache of books which is the actual asset. There is a charm of reading here which can’t be replaced by digital means. Also, not all the literature is available online. When you come here you discover gems which enrich you,” Divya Pathak, a professor in Delhi University, said.
H.R. Meena, Senior Library and Information Officer, Central Public Library, said, “It will take time as the upgrade plans are very comprehensive. Upgrading the DPL doesn’t mean just upgrading the big zonal branches. The help needs to go to the smaller branches as well. So we are optimistic.”
The 21-year-old South Zone Library located at Sarojini Nagar is also well stocked over three floors. The library has always been popular with young readers due to proximity of several schools and colleges.
In the West Zone Library, the librarian says that the branch has increased its regular readers because, “It is easy for readers to find titles through our online catalogues. Online systems, in this manner, have worked to our benefit,” said the B.L. Meena, Library Information Officer at the DPL Patel Nagar Branch.
The North zone branch at Karol Bagh that was started in 1963 also gets good footfall due to populated student areas in nearby Mukherjee Nagar and similar is the case with the Shahadra zonal branch in East Delhi.
Another gem in the heart of New Delhi is the Central Secretariat Library (CSL), which is one of the oldest government libraries. CSL was established in 1891 after the Imperial Secretariat Library was founded in Kolkata. When the capital was shifted to New Delhi, the library was also shifted. Since 1969, the library has been housed in Shastri Bhawan. The Ministry of Culture stated in its report that “…in terms of size of collection (5,50,000 volumes + non-print material), it is the second largest Central Government library after the National Library, Kolkata.”