From a dwindling membership of 42,306 in 2007 to more than 73,000 members in 2011, one of the city's oldest public libraries - Delhi Public Library - has seen an amazing turnaround, thanks to a remodelling.
Set up in 1951, the library undertook major renovation and modernisation programme in the past few years. Today, the library at SP Mukherjee Old Delhi railway station, boasts of a renovated façade, clear marble corridors, an air-conditioned internet access room and a 'Baja Ghar' that has a collection of rare LPs.
Such is the turnabout of fortunes that the library has added about 10,000 new members between February 2010 and February 2011.
"We have come a long way since 2007 when we were fast losing membership. We set up an advisory committee to help restore the library to its old glory. We made several administrative changes, revamped our infrastructure and book committees, and enhanced our services. Last year, we organised several special exhibitions with a view to showcase the library," says Shailaja Chandra, who in 2007, took over as chairman, Delhi Library Board which looks after the Delhi Public Library.
The library now plans to enhance its electronic resources and wishes to expand its cultural calendar and its social education services, which presently includes drama , music , seminars , lectures, etc. "We believe that the library is not just about books. We want to make it a social and cultural hub, where people meet like-minded people and participate in various cultural activities," says Chandra.
Another city library which has seen more visitors to its main reading room because of a remodelled interiors is Hardayal Municipal Public Library. After renovation, the library saw the number of visitors doubling - from 150 to 300 every day.
The reading room now looks like a trendy corporate office, thanks to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). "The ICAI offered to renovate the reading room to create a conducive environment for students pursuing courses in chartered accountancy. But renovated reading rooms are open to all," says Yashpal Arya, municipal councilor and honorary secretary of the Hardayal Municipal Library.
"This is probably the only library in the city where you can find the first editions of dozens of classics. The other day I found a copy of The Grand Babylon Hotel by Arnold Bennett printed in 1902. It was an amazing experience to touch a book that was published more than 100 years back," says Amit Kumar, a new member of the library.