Public library: instrument of social betterment

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Prof. PB Mangla, former dean and head – Department of Library and Information Science at the University of Delhi has recently been honoured with Tagore National Fellowship for Cultural Research awarded by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. He has been member of almost all important committees on Public libraries and has chaired many of them. GS Jolly, deputy editor of AABP, in conversation with Prof Mangla, brings about the details of project in hand and his views on it.

Prof. Mangla has been awarded the National Tagore Fellowship to work on a project on ‘Public Library Services in Delhi: Present Status and future development-2010-2020’. These fellowships have been instituted by Ministry to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Guru Rabindranath Tagore. Prof. Mangla is a renowned luminary in the field of Library and Information Science and has served as president Indian Library Association and vice president of International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA).

Talking about the project, Prof Mangla explained that the overall objective of the project is to find out the present situation of public library service in Delhi, make an assessment of the needs of present and potential users of public library service, and propose a 10-year development programme for the National Capital Territory of Delhi. For this purpose, a sample user survey has been conducted with the following objectives: in general, to find out the profile of the people who use the public library service and those who do not, those who read, what they read and how books are valued by the respondents. The survey will also include the services the public libraries provide, what makes people use the public library and frequency of use and satisfaction from the services provided. The survey will also include the non users of public libraries to find the possible reasons that make them indifferent to the service made available by the government and to analyze the responses.

The survey therefore has been devised as:

1. To find out the overall profile of the people who are expected to use the public library service which includes information such as their (i) educational background (ii) age, gender, etc. (iii) reading profile based on their interest in reading books (iv) use of books versus multimedia (TV, Video, Internet, etc.) and usefulness of books as such, in life;

2. To find out their experience, level of satisfaction and assessment of the public library service being presently used by them; and

3. To find out the possible reasons for their being non-users of the public library services presently available along with their expectation for a public library service.

On the question of why do we need public libraries, Prof. Mangla with a spark in his eyes said that it doubles the value of the education the child receives in school, and, best of all, imparts a desire for knowledge which serves as an incentive to continue his education after leaving school; and, having furnished the incentive, it further supplies the means for a life-long continuance of education. “It makes the city a more desirable place of residence, and thus retains the best citizens and attracts others of the same character. It is of incalculable benefit to the city by affording to thousands the highest and purest entertainment. More than any other agency, it elevates the general standard of intelligence throughout the great body of the community, upon which its material prosperity, as well as its moral and political well-being, must depend,” he added.

Finally, he believes that the public libraries include potentially of all other means of social betterment. “A library is a living organism, having within itself the capacity of infinite growth and reproduction. It may found a dozen museums and hospitals, kindle the train of thought that produces beneficent inventions, and inspire to noble deeds of every kind, all the while imparting intelligence and inculcating industry, thrift, morality, public spirit and all those qualities that constitute the wealth and well-being of a community,” he concluded.

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