The state central library here is a study in contrasts, literally. Though plagued with gross inadequacies of infrastructure as well as manpower, the library, which is situated close to the Ambala Cantt railway station, is abuzz and lively with all-time attendance of its members, mainly college going students, quietly engrossed in reading and writing.
The library, which was set up in 1956 as a district library, was upgraded as the state central library in 1967. It has about 86,000 books and over 8,400 members and counting. “A large number of our members have been regular and the new ones steadily joining since’’, says Poonam Devi, restorer at the library. “It is heartening for the library staff to see youngsters often distributing sweets to celebrate their success in one exam or the other,” said librarian Ram Kumar.
Another touching comment comes from Ashok Saini, who has been working as a book binder at the library for several years. “The footfall has been rising so much that we had to triplicate the drinking water facilities and purchase about 100 more chairs a few months ago’’, he said pointing out to the groups of students reading under the shadowy trees in the library built in over about an acre’s area.
On the flip side, the library, which has two reading rooms each for girls and boys, has hundreds of books on variety of subjects which can be seen stacked in very congested counters and corners. While it has about a dozen employees, it is understaffed with seven vacancies.
According to official information, the funds for purchase of books has simply been not earmarked since years while the expenditure on infrastructure has been steadily diminishing.
Since 1949 in Kalka
The library at Kalka, located in the heart of the town at Gandhi Chowk, is open since 1949, though with the building deteriorating and little or no funds since. The building, which comprises just one hall, was donated by businessman late Lala Kapur Chand Jain of Kalka. It was later taken over by local civic body. “This building was an erstwhile meat market which my grandfather Lala Kapur Chand did not like. So he bought it and opened a library”, recalls Jain’s grandson, Santosh Jain.
A group of elderly people regularly reach here on dot at the opening time. Though the library now has a full-time librarian, Nisha Kalia, it’s electrician Puran Chand who often acts as its caretaker and librarian. Both take pride in the fact that library has regular and frequent visitors.
Panchkula senior deputy mayor S S Nanda, said he had often raised the issue in the past.
The Panchkula district library, which has recently been shifted to Government College for Girls, Sector 14, has about 18,000 book s and 868 members. It has seating arrangement for about 50 visitors. “We have a large number of elderly members but we are happy to see a large number of students too coming here to study as well as prepare for various competitive exams,” says librarian Savita Ahuja.