Heritage library faces neglect

ranbir Viceroy Lord Canning meets Maharaja Ranbir Singh at Kashmir, 9 March 1860. 

Built by Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 19th century and having the heritage status, Ranbir Library, situated in the heart of the city, is in bad shape.

The library has 308 rare manuscripts, over 70,000 books, periodicals and magazines. It also contains books and documents of great historical and literary importance and one also comes across with the treaties and agreements signed between the Dogra rulers with the rulers of neighbouring states and countries in this library.

All the books and literature available in the library throw light on the early history of Jammu and Kashmir right from 1835 to 2008. The wedding album of Maharaja Pratap Singh and pictures of Maharaja Hari Singh and Maharaja Ranbir Singh are also seen in the library.

“Shanama Firdoosi” (1874 A.D.) written in Urdu is one of the oldest books in the library, says M.R. Bhagat, deputy director-cum-chief librarian.

The library has five sections, comprising Hindi, Urdu, English, Children and Raja Ram Mohan Roy section where books are provided free of cost by Raja Ram Mohan Roy Library Foundation.

"We have above 10,000 readers who are members of the library and around 500 readers visit library daily. They are tly unemployed youth. t of the IAS and KAS officers produced in the state had taken help of study material available in this library," says Bhagat.

However, despite being a treasure house of knowledge, the upkeep of the library is poor. Cracks have surfaced on the walls of the building. The reading room of the library lacks adequate seating capacity and a shift system has been introduced to accommodate maximum readers.

The library is also short of staff. There are around 18 people who are maintaining the library. Posts for chief librarian, senior and junior librarians, library assistant and classifier are vacant due to which the work is suffering, avers Bhagat.

Being located in a busy market, members lament that there is a lot of noise pollution in its vicinity. "Constant flow of traffic and protest demonstrations do not allow us to concentrate on reading,” says Narender Khashu, a library member.

On the library's poor condition, Bhagat says the directors of the library are usually recruited from other fields and they hardly get any time to look after the library. He rues that funds released by the government for the maintenance of heritage buildings are spent on the renovation of Mubarak Mandi Complex and G.G.M. Science College only whereas this heritage library was ignored. However, with the efforts of Mahmood Rana, director, Directorate of Libraries, the renovation work has started, he adds.

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