VIJAYAWADA: The Ram Mohan Library, named after one of India’s greatest social reformers Raja Ram Mohan Roy, is the oldest library in the city with an iconic collection of books. Now, it lives under the shadow of its past glory, stocking the best sellers as well as other rare collections to decay.
This is the very library where the inception of Library Movement of India took place in 1914.
Established in 1911, the library has a glorious past. A few visionaries and public-spirited men including Suri Venkata Narasimha Sastry, Ayyanki Venkata Ramaiah and Ayyadevara Kaleswara Rao were behind this once-a-great-institution. It had a very good run till late 1980s when readers used to frequent and read the books in one of the biggest reading rooms then. But, over the recent years the library has lost its glory with few people visiting this library today, that too for newspapers.
Books and publications, right from 1850s, were once a part of this library. But the negligence of the administration led to the books getting damaged. “There were about 20,000 books earlier but now, we have around 5,000. We disposed off the other books as they were damaged beyond recognition,” said vice-president of the library committee Koteswara Rao.
A walk through the dusted racks of the library shows that no proper record of books is being maintained, making it difficult to identify the books. Many historic books published during the Bengal province period were eaten away by moths, and several others are covered in bacteria.
“I am a regular visitor to this library since my childhood. Great English literature books, American literature books and Encyclopedias were once a part of this famous library. But now, we are not given access to any books as they are turning into powder, just by the touch of our hands. We just look at the books inside the shelves as we look at that photograph,” a 72-year-old woman who is disheartened at the present shape of the library said, while pointing at Ram Mohan Roy’s photo on the wall.
The library where great men like Gandhiji and Rajaji stayed during the Satyagraha period is now a shelter for the homeless. Many allege that sheer negligence of the library’s administration is the reason for its present state, which was once a favourite spot for Telugu, Sanskrit manuscripts and English books.
Even the books in better condition are not accessible by readers, making the paper decay even further. When asked about the restoration process, Koteswara Rao said that they are planning to recover the books by digitising them and the process would begin in about six months, after holding consultations with the committee.