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169-year-old bibliophile's paradise in Pune

The library with over 3,000 registered members, holds a wealth of 70,000 books

pune Updated: Sep 11, 2017 17:23 IST
Ananya Barua
Pune Nagar Vachan Mandir near Laxmi road in Pune.
Pune Nagar Vachan Mandir near Laxmi road in Pune.(HT Photo)

Tucked away along the bylanes of Laxmi road near Budhwar Peth, stands an archaic building, housing one of Pune’s oldest libraries, Pune Nagar Vachan Mandir. An abode for scholars and intellectuals of the city, the 169-year-old library, despite its old-world charm has, however, evolved with time to embrace digitisation.

“We are a heritage building and proudly hold a wealth of knowledge in the form of books. However, we believe that with changing time, we need to evolve and have introduced modern digital technology in the functioning of day to day library proceedings,” shared Arvind Ranade, secretary of the managing committee.

The library with over 3,000 registered members, holds a wealth of 70,000 books, and all these books have been registered though a library software, Koha. Predominantly with books in languages with demand from members, it contains over 12,000 books in English, and many in Marathi. Books in Hindi however are scarce, due to the low demand, Ranade added. 

Founded in 1848, by social reformer Gopal Hari Deshmukh along with many supporters both Indian and British, Pune Nagar Vachan Mandir was initially formed as the Poona Native General Library. However, it was later burnt in an accident when eminent personalities like prof Kero Laxman Chhatre, Daji Neelkanth Nagarkar, Vishnu Parshuram Ranade, Justice Mahadeo Govind Ranade, Lokhitvadi Gopalrao Hari Deshmukh, Krishnashatri Chiploonkar, Sonya Bapu Mande and Vishnu Moreshwar Bhide rebuilt it in 1889. The new building was inaugurated on July 30,1889 at the hands of His Excellency Donald James Mackay Reay, the then governor of Bombay.

It has been imparting knowledge to Punekars though various platforms in addition to their books.“Every year we organise many lectures, cultural programs, workshops with authors and other important personalities to help our members gain knowledge from various avenues. We also have study rooms for students and higher education aspirants, along with internet and lockers, at the cost of Rs.50 per month,” said Ranade. These study rooms are open from 7.30 in the morning till 9.30pm.

Wholly run by an independent trust, the managing committee feels proud to have never needed a penny from the government. “We have never needed government grant, and in fact it is a rare incidence for an independent trust like ours to run such a place while continuously updating our stock of books through purchases twice every month,” he added. Every year, the committee makes a purchase of new books worth 8 lakhs, and all this at a membership cost of Rs.30 per month.

Stepping into the digital era, the library has also been digitising its rare old books for preservation. Till now, they have digitised 50,000 pages in total. In addition to this, they have begun a home-delivery scheme called ‘Library at your doorstep’, for those members who have difficulties travelling to the library for borrow books. Members, every month get a list of new purchases on their email, and accordingly can request which book to be delivered and when.

Pune Nagar Vachan Mandir

What: One of Pune’s oldest libraries, founded in 1848

Where: Laxmi road, 181 Budhwar Peth

When: Monday to Sunday 09am - 12pm and 5pm - 8pm