By Prof Dr Nasim Fatima
It’s heartening to know that the Pakistan Library Association (PLA), with the collaboration of Goethe Institute, will be conducting a seminar on present status of the public libraries in Sindh on March 19 at the Aga Khan University of Health Sciences Library, Karachi.
The seminar titled ‘Public Libraries in Sindh: Importance, current status and challenges’ is expected to bring to light fact and figures, besides a few worthy proposals, aimed at developing library culture in the province.
The educational institutions like schools, colleges and universities besides the research organizations have their own libraries and information research centres which serve the students, teachers and researchers of their own.
The public libraries serve a larger pool of people irrespective of their age, ethnicity, race, profession or region. Such libraries are established for community development, cultural enrichment and overall well being of the citizens of the area where it is located.
The PLA, at national and provincial levels, has always emphasized the need of new public libraries as well as further improvement of the existing libraries. The Sachal Public Library in Sachal Goth, Karachi, is an example of newly established libraries.
The older libraries in Sindh are running but these are not enough when considered in the context of the population of the cities. There are very few public libraries in Sindh and there is an urgent need to address the issue.
Even in the cosmopolitan city of Karachi very few public libraries are performing their duties. Unfortunately there are very few libraries which makes difficult for the inhabitants of the province to acquire knowledge in comfortable and peaceful environment.
Special users like retired persons, sick persons, woman and children of different classes do not find any public library from Hassan Square to Safoora Goth except the library of Anjuman Taraqi-e-Urdu which is primarily meant for the promotion of the national language. The other notable public libraries are the Ghalib Library and the Bedil Public Library, located in Nazimabad and Sharafabad respectively, which are opened in second shift, being run on donations.
The Liaquat Memorial Library, situated on Stadium Road, is also suffering from various problems of funds, space and other kinds. A public library should have a big hall for children reading, conference and seeking information from internet. This section could be housed at ground floor.
For women users and mothers there should be a separate reading room and computer lab near children section for easy and comfortable use of lady users. The senior citizens, retired or sick, also deserve special attention due to certain disabilities.
A room well equipped with wheel chairs magnifying glass, magnificent monitors for them be reserved with intercom facilities. They have enough time and urge to seek more knowledge information’s and entertainments of their own choices.
The retired persons have their own subject interests. They usually work on contracts or otherwise on research proposal or on publication programmes which seem necessary for their own life and for the development of the community. Although hospitals provide some light reading material to long staying patients but there is no mobile public library system in the city province or at national level.
It is very important to note that those who are literate become illiterate due to various reasons like poverty and lack of time. Things could change if mobile library system be introduced whereby books, CDs, DVDs, Cassettes are made available at the doorstep which will be very beneficial to readers at home. After all children and old people are special readers and a part of our society. By reading they can make use of their own spare time without spending money.
The Children Library Complex in Lahore is a good example of separate children public library. This practice should be replicated in Karachi, and other cities.
Library building in each residential area is a necessity. It should be conveyed to the builders that they have to develop a public library in their commercial projects as they reserve space for community halls for social activities.
What we need at primary level is to survey of reading habits of our expected users, planning how to run mobile public library system and to convince authorities to provide necessary facilities and to evaluate the end results
The PLA Sindh will be advised to approach to Government of Sindh for the development of online public libraries and to build a library in each community centre, club, sports complex, railway stations on all conceivable public places. They should also look after the low grades vacancies of library personnel and shrinking library budgets.