Some books kept at the Mirza Mehmood Beg Library at Zakir Husain College are older than colleges in the city. The oldest library in Delhi University (DU), it has more than 150,000 books, many of which are rare reading material in Persian, Arabic and Urdu.
Its unique collection includes the oldest book, Tasveer-e-Mohabbat by Faqir Shamshuddin from the 18th century, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which is the latest addition.
"Our library is the only one in Delhi University that starts lending books on the first day of college. It is a very important part of college life," said Dr. M Aslam Parvaiz, principal, Zakir Husain College.
The library, along with the college, came up in 1792 and also houses books in English, Hindi, Sanskrit and Bengali, among others.
"We also have manuscripts in Persian, dating back to the 1700s. The library was plundered twice in 1857 and 1947 so a lot of books were destroyed at that time," said Md. Javed Iqbal, librarian at the Beg library, who has been working here for 31 years.
But Iqbal, who can read six languages including Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit, does not feel that the library is only about history.
"We have introduced media facilities in the library. Students can access online journals on the archiving site, jstor.org. We will also provide 80 computers to give Internet access to students free of cost," said Iqbal.
The University Grants Commission has also approved a plan for the automation of the library this year. But the college has an undeniable history. Called the Madrasa Ghazi-ud-Din in the 1700s, the college was started by Ghazi-ud-Din, a commander in Aurangzeb's army.
The college's name was changed to Anglo Arabic College during rule of the East India Company. After Independence, it became the Delhi College and was finally named Zakir Husain College in 1972.
"On the first day of college, we tell the students about its history and the library. But having hidden treasures is not enough. I want to find a way to tell the world about the treasures in the library," said Parvaiz. To popularise the library, the college holds an annual book fair. Last year, books worth Rs 12 lakh were sold at the fair.