Sixty years on, it has kept pace with the times. The rows of books have increased with years and old gramophone records occupy the pride of place with DVDs.
Now, the Delhi Public Library — the biggest public library in the country — is ready to rewind.
The library, located opposite Old Delhi Railway Station, is celebrating its 60 years of existence. And to mark the years, it is organising a six-day exhibition themed Delhi Public Library Rewinds: A Saga of Times Gone By.
The exhibition will be held from February 1 to February 6 at Lalit Kala Academy and the occasion would feature display of rare archival material, audiovisual recordings and books from the library, apart from programmes like meet the authors, story-telling competitions, seminars and debates.
The highlight of the event will be ‘Newseum’ that will showcase a selection of advertisements, cartoons, photographs and editorials, etc. published in the newspapers from 1952 to 2009.
Rare gramophone records from the library’s collection of 4,000 records will also be on display.
“We wish to highlight the role the library has played in providing people information and insights into the country’s polity, society and culture,” said Shailaja Chandra, chairman of the Delhi Library Board. “The idea is to convey the message that there is more to a library than books.”
“After the exhibition, we plan to make Newseum a permanent section at the library,” said Chandra.
The library was inaugurated by the country’s first Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, in 1951.
It lends books, DVDs, and Internet services to its members for free.
The renovated children’s section has about 70,000 books and an audio-visual section with an LCD screen for watching movies and educational DVDs
“What sets us apart from other libraries in the city is that our library has been a hub of community activities. We regularly organise competitions, seminars and debates in our auditorium for children and adults,” said Banwari Lal, director of the library.
The library has a literature group, a drama group and music group all formed by its members.
The library, which has seen years of declining membership and little use, saw a turnaround in fortunes in the last few years, thanks to the renovation and modernisation.
In the last two year, its membership has shot up from 42,000 to 59,000.
“This is the only library where one can get such a large collection of books, DVDs, newspapers and access to Internet free. I visit the library at least four days a week,” said Deepak Singh, 22, an engineering student.
Chakshu Roy, 32, a research analyst with Centre for Policy Research, was a member of the library when in school. “Today I came here after 15 years. The library has undergone a sea change in terms of facilities and interiors,” said Roy. “It is a more happening place now.”
Chandra has ambitious plans for the library. “We want the library to become a cultural hub, where people can meet, talk and engage in intellectual and artistic pursuits,” said Chandra.
“We plan to renovate the auditorium and the façade of the building. Besides, we will replace furniture and have e-book readers too,” she said.