America. “Our basic motto is to promote intellectual exchange of ideas between the two countries and give people an opportunity to expand their horizons,” says David Mees, cultural attaché, US Embassy.
Opened in 1951, the American library was established to promote mutual understanding between the people of India and the US. The library has books on international relations, economic development, socio-political processes, global issues and other topics.
From the erstwhile reading room at Queensway (now Janpath) with a collection of around 3000 books, 2000 pamphlets, 80 periodicals and a seating capacity of 24, to the current building on Kasturba Gandhi Marg, the library has expanded with more than 10,000 books and over 3000 periodicals. Similar libraries have also been built in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.
Though the general public has free access to the library, membership allows patrons a wider selection of privileges such as invitations to EducationUSA sessions, poetry evenings, book clubs, concerts, exhibitions and film screenings. One can also borrow books, and access elibraryUSA, computers with internet facility and Microsoft Office. The library provides reference and information service by professional staff via telephone, email, fax or in person. Members can use multimedia facilities and study material to prepare for standardised tests such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, Graduate Record Examination, and Graduate Management Admission Test.Apart from this a separate section in the library has been assigned to children. The library is open from Monday to Saturday, from 11am to 6pm. It is closed on Indian and American holidays.
To become a library member, one must be a resident of India and be 16 years of age or above. The membership can be availed at Rs. 400 for one year and Rs. 700 for two. The library offers local and postal membership to individuals and institutions in north India (includes Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, and Jammu and Kashmir). People living in remote areas can become members by filling an online application form.
The library has a collaboration with the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) which offers educational advisory services, fellowship support and facilitates academic dialogue between the US and India.
USIEF’s EducationUSA advising services (EAS) provide information to Indians interested in pursuing higher education in the US and for American students who wish to study in India. USIEF also serves as a link between higher education institutions in the US and India through its US-India Higher Education Cooperation (USIHEC) office. USIEF organises special seminars and workshops on application procedures and strategies, education fairs and pre-departure programmes all the year round for US education aspirants in India.
The Delhi centre of USIEF also administers tests like SAT (originally Scholastic Aptitude Test) I, SAT II, ACT (originally American College Testing), Preliminary SAT and Advanced Placement. It provides information regarding standardised tests like GMAT, GRE and TOEFL. The foundation offers fee-based membership plans to individual students and they can access the resources at the American Centre library.
Apart from New Delhi, USIEF advising centres are located at Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai. All these centres are affiliated with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The American Centre also organises events like theatre workshops and discussions with diplomats on a regular basis. The popular ones are Friday Flicks, where it screens a Hollywood movie for the public and members of library, and the Startup Saturday, which provides a platform to start-ups in the National Capital Region, and entrepreneurs from the US and India to showcase their products to peers and the media and learn about building a business.
“The idea is to broaden the US-India relationship by building up global perspective,” says Stephanie F Morimura, cultural attaché for education and exchanges, US Embassy.
Talking about the future plans, Mees says, “We will continue to attract Indians from all walks of life and discuss all sorts of issues related to politics, economy and many more.”