Locks have been put on the gates of the district library here, which had been facing closure for quite some time.A chowkidar, who is the lone employee of the education department here, sits outside the premises, turning away uninformed members, who keep visiting from time to time.
The 40-year-old library, which never had a building of its own, had always been battling with severe shortage of staff. After the retirement of a restorer in October 2013, the department closed down the library, but it was again opened when another restorer was deputed here early this year. Recently, she also got herself transferred from here, leaving the facility at the mercy of a chowkidar.
Sources revealed that the restorer left without handing over the charge as there was no one to assume the same.
A professor of a local government college has been given drawing and disbursing (DD) powers, but there are no funds to disburse. The chowkidar has been without salary for the last two months. The supply of newspapers and magazines has been suspended as old bills have still not been cleared.
When set up in 1974, the library had a staff of five, but the strength kept diminishing with time. Since 2007, there has been no librarian. A restorer and a chowkidar looked after the affairs, but after the retirement of the restorer, things took a turn for the worse. Membership has dropped and there has been no addition to the existing catalogue of books. The two computers, sent by the Raja Ram Mohan Rai Foundation Trust, Kolkata, are gathering dust. Numerous reminders to the education authorities have proved futile.
Earlier, the facility ran in the zila parishad building on the Railway road. When shown the door, the staff shifted the stock to the old transport office building near the district courts as no space was sanctioned in the newly-constructed mini secretariat. However, the owner of the premises, PUDA, has been trying for long to get this vacated. The library has nearly 50,000 books and magazines.
The Social Democratic Party recently observed one-day strike to protest the closure, but it failed to wake up the authorities. Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha general secretary Dr Karamjit Singh had lambasted the government for ignoring an institution, which, besides providing information and entertainment to the readers, connected them to their culture and rich traditions.
"It is often said that technology is killing the traditional library trend, but I will say it is the government's apathy that is out to destroy it. Even, the net-savvy people love to spend time in libraries," said Karamjit, a renowned Punjabi writer and critic. "Reading in a government library is affordable and convenient to poor students who do not have the internet facility," he added.