HYDERABAD: Lack of funds coupled with Government apathy, is coming in the way of development of libraries in Hyderabad. While there are about 86 libraries in the city, almost all are plagued by numerous problems with the number of visitors declining gradually.
“After the spread of TV and Internet there is a marked decline in the number of visitors to libraries. But that is just one facet. Government’s apathy towards libraries is another factor which is shooing away readers from libraries. Many libraries do not even have proper buildings and staff,” says a librarian, in the heart of the city.
While there 86 libraries in the city, 65 are housed in own premises of Hyderabad City Grandhalaya Samstha, 11 in rented premises and 10 in rent-free premises like colony associations’ halls. Barring a few, most of the libraries are located in narrow streets or nondescript locales and buildings, leaving even locals ignorant about their presence.
The situation is so bad that just one employee is posted at some libraries and if that employee takes leave, the library stays closed.
While HCGS supervises libraries in city, funds have to be allotted by Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation.
According to the records of HCGS about 22.65 lakh people visit libraries in the city every year and as of now there are about 14.73 lakh books in these libraries. The total number of members enrolled is 89,647.
“While there are about 89,647 members, just 25 per cent of them might be active readers. A decade or two ago, more than 80 per cent used to be active. The main reason in decline beside technology is the decrease in the popularity of novels and other general interest books. Earlier, visitors from all age groups, mainly women, used to visit regularly but now most of them have stopped,” observes AVN Raju, secretary of HCGS.
It is mostly college students who are preparing for competitive exams who visit libraries today. While youth approach libraries like City Central Library, Chikkadpally and Afzalgunz state library which are open throughout the day, in colonies like DD Colony, Domalguda and in busy locations like Ramkoti, Nampally, among other places it is mostly casual visitors who frequent library just for reading newspapers or magazines. They have no intention to consult or borrow fiction or non-fiction books. Also, there are not enough new books to cater the few remaining library subscribers.
“We do not find new books nowadays. We are left with same old novels or books which we have been bought years back. Though there is decrease in readers, even for the existing members there are not enough new additions to keep readers interested,” says B Padma, a visitor to Vijaynagar Colony library.
Even library officials agree that new books are not bought with each passing year due to lack of funds. While fiction, general interest non fiction and text books used to be bought every year earlier, now library officials mostly confine to buying text books and periodicals.
‘’Every year about 8 per cent of property tax collected by Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation has to be transferred to HCGS as library cess. But due to some issues we are not transferring it but are allocating `12 lakhs per month to HCGS, said an official from GHMC, requesting anonymity.
But the the meagre amount tarnsfered by GHMC is not sufficient to run the libraries in city.
“Library cess easily exceeds `10 crore per year and will be used for development and maintenance of libraries. Expenditure towards new buildings, buying books, temporary staff, among others will borne by it. But from the year 2012, GHMC stopped transferring the amount thus causing severe problems for libraries. Unless library cess is transferred to HCGS, the status of city libraries will not change,” stated AVN Raju.