CHENNAI: Knowledge resources of Tamil Nadu comprise 32 district libraries, 1,664 branch libraries, 1,795 village libraries, 539 part-time libraries and 10 mobile libraries, but they do not fulfil the needs of students and academicians due to lack of quality and high-standard study material.
It was in Tamil Nadu that the first Public Libraries Act of independent India enacted in 1948. Unfortunate that politics in Tamil Nadu had posed threats to the existence of the prestigious projects such as that of Anna Centenary Library. Hassles surrounding the library include calls for conversion into a hospital, use of the premises for wedding receptions and complete closure even.
Earlier this year, education minister K.A. Sengottaiyan said, “The government will allocate Rs 25 crore to buy new books for public libraries and Rs 5 crore will be given to buy new books to Anna Centenary Library.” He had also mentioned that special libraries would be set up across the state.
Despite various announcements made to upgrade the libraries and provide world-class facilities, they seem to lag behind not just in terms of technology but the quality of resources available, rue students.
“Apart from physical copies we provide e-resources to around 25,000 regular members and others who have enrolled in the library,” said Meenakshi Sundaram, librarian at the Connemara public library.
When asked about the diversity of the collections and the size, he said, though Indian author books are available, the public purchase foreign authors’ books only on demand. Out of the 1,40,000 thousand members enrolled, the library sees only 25,000 regular members.
Sreya Srinivas, a student of Sri Ramachandra University, said: “I find the collections at the Anna Centenary library helpful for my research projects.”
“But it is unsatisfactory that the charging portals and internet do not work most of the time,” Dr G. Gowtham, associate prof-essor, All India Civil Services Coaching Centre said, adding that India needs 24-hour libraries like foreign countries and more qualified librarians.
He added that libraries lack facilities for specially abled persons. Vasundhara Sirnate, a researcher with an institutional backing of a reputed public policy centre and the University of Berkley, says research facilities are poor all over India.
She said getting hold of government archival resources is a task since one has to get a letter from Delhi.
Dayanidhi Krishna, an independent researcher working on technology said, while the Central libraries in Delhi have good possessions for public policy and technical research, collection in Chennai are comparatively generic.
Unlike Anna, local libraries have only basic books
Surya Raj, an IAS aspirant says that he finds it difficult to find books for preparation at local level government libraries. “I am forced to go to Anna Centenary library.” Acknowledging the trend, Jesudoss, librarian at the Choolaimedu government library, said, “People are not satisfied with the quantity and quality of books available for competitive exams especially for medicine. We are forced to send them to other libraries”. For Sundaram, a regular visitor, the lack of parking facilities at local level libraries is a disappointment. Others like him said that the condition is the same at other local level libraries. Residents of Anna Nagar said the local libraries have only basic or old books. Other grievances that visitors unanimously expressed are the lack of integrated library system. While a large library such as Anna Centenary has the facility, the local level libraries are not digitally upgraded.
School students find library access tough
Though there have been various announcements to improve facilities and provide study material to government school students through libraries, students still find it difficult to access libraries.
Students appearing for board exams say that they are not allowed to borrow books, as there is no defined procedure through government or school issued library cards and identity cards.
In spite of many government libraries in the state, the schools are not encouraged to visit government libraries for seeking study material.
“Student identity cards are mostly not accepted by the library staff to lend the books. Schools have no such provision to encourage us for visiting libraries in schools,” said Loga Priya, a student of government school in Chintadripet.
Students say that library classes are just a formality as mostly library classes are used for teaching other major subjects in government schools.
“We are asked to read only the course book in classes and libraries do not have any direct provision to provide study material for exams. We have to shell extra money on buying study material, question banks and sample test papers,” said V. Neha, a resident of North Chennai.