At a time when most of the public libraries in the capital are facing an existential crisis, private libraries located in the narrow lanes of Mukherjee Nagar, Rajendra Place, Patel Nagar and Laxmi Nagar, are becoming popular among students, especially those preparing for competitive examinations.

Most of these private libraries run from small buildings located in the narrow lanes. Packed with chairs and desks, these private libraries accommodate between 100 and 200 students and run in three shifts.  As per a rough estimate, these libraries cater to around 200,000 students across the city. For Shivangi, who came from Bihar to prepare for the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination, it was difficult to get any library facilities as she was not enrolled in any university in the city. Once she got information through a friend that there are several private libraries in Laxmi Nagar where she stays, she joined the Maa Saraswati Library which provides reading space to students. Shivangi told The Sunday Guardian: “It was very difficult for me to find a peaceful place with the right ambience needed for preparation for competitive examinations. I came across the Maa Sarsaswati Library which has provided me reading space with the right atmosphere. Ever since I have joined this private library, my problem over lack of reading spaces has been solved.”

Similarly, Rinku Kumar, a resident of Bihar who came to Delhi to prepare for competitive examinations and lives with his brother in the Mukherjee Nagar area, said: “After completing my graduation, I started preparing for competitive examinations. My brother lives in a two-bedroom small house which had insufficient space even for staying, what to speak of having a peaceful reading space. Thus, I decided to join the Surya Library which is near my house. This has proved helpful for my studies.”

“My library charges Rs 1200 for an 8-hour daily shift for one month which I find quite reasonable. Besides providing the reading space these libraries also provide a place for the interaction with many other students who also come for study,” Kumar said.

Ramanuj Mishra, another student who hails from Uttar Pradesh and is currently preparing for Chartered Accountant examination, said: “Although I live with my family in Delhi’s Shakkarpur area, it was getting difficult for me to secure a peaceful environment for studies and therefore, I joined the Takshila Library which is near my house. The library provides me the perfect atmosphere needed for studying.”  

Subhash Solanki, who owns the Surya Library, told The Sunday Guardian: “These libraries are based on a very different concept. Here we don’t provide much reading material. Our focus is on providing a perfect reading atmosphere. These are simply reading rooms that provide the similar ambience and peace of a library, which is why we call them libraries.”

 Rajendra Mehra, who manages Sixteen Celestial, another private library in the Laxmi Nagar area, said: “As per the needs of aspirants, we charge from Rs 1,200-2,000 monthly fees. We also provide air-conditioned reading halls, WiFi and discussion rooms.”

The demand for private libraries is seen by many as the government’s failure to revive the culture of public libraries in the city, as most of the existing public libraries in the capital are facing an existential crisis.

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