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Even though the Punjab government is pretending to do a lot in the field of school education by launching several scholarship and welfare schemes for students when it comes to improving the standard of higher education the tall claims fall flat.
Libraries, which play an important part in nourishing students' intellectual level and grooming their personality, have never been on key agenda of the education department, as libraries, both at college and district levels across state, are presently presenting a picture of neglect and reeling under acute shortage of staff.
Apathy can be gauged from the fact that more than 75% posts of librarians and restorers have been lying vacant in libraries for the past many years.
The report card of the state government as far as state of libraries is concerned is pathetic as of the 96 sanctioned posts of librarians, 71 were lying vacant, while 34 posts of restorers are presently vacant out of 72 sanctioned posts.
According to information, librarians were last recruited in the state in 1998 and since then no librarian has been appointed in any library till date.
Govt colleges completely ignored
In 48 government colleges, there are 68 posts of librarians, of which 51 are presently vacant. Indeed, 14 colleges have been running without librarians and restorers.
Of the 52 sanctioned posts of restorers in government colleges, 27 are lying vacant.
The colleges in the border or remote and backward areas of Punjab, including Pojewal, Patti, Bholath, Fazilka, Jandiala, Jagraon, Kala Afghana, Kotkapura, Mansa, Malerkotla, Ajnala, Bathinda and Patran are worst affected.
District libraries on verge of closure
The situation in district libraries is no better as 20 posts out of sanctioned 28 posts are lying vacant. There are 14 public and district libraries in the state, while only six have regular librarians.
The district libraries at Bathinda, Fatehgarh Sahib, Nabha, Amritsar and Mansa are headed by peons owing to non-availability librarians and restorers.
Seven posts of restorer are lying vacant out of total 22 posts.
'Govt fails to act despite repeated efforts'
Barjinder Pal Dhiman, general secretary of Punjab College Librarians Association, said their repeated representations to the state government's different authorities have fallen on deaf ears.
“Many libraries are manned by class-IV employees. Books are not removed for years from the shelves as a result of which they are being eaten up by moths and termites in many libraries,” he said.
He added due to shortage of staff, number of visitors to district libraries has come down to the extent that if government fails to take serious note of the sorry state of affairs, the libraries may become history in Punjab districts.
Despite several attempts, education minister Sikander Singh Maluka could not be contacted.
Library union want eligibility criteria changed
The members of Punjab Library Union have expressed resentment over the eligibility criteria set by the Punjab Subordinate Services Selection Board to fill 25 posts of library restorers in the state.
As per a government advertisement, Class 10 has been set the minimum qualification to apply for 25 posts of restorers.
Satnam Singh, a member of the union, said even as several universities and colleges have been providing diploma, bachelor and masters degrees in library sciences, the government has ignored interest of all library professionals.
“Earlier also, during recruitment of 72 school librarians, the government had committed same mistake, which was later rectified following the orders of the Punjab and Haryana high court,” he said.
The union demanded that the government should give preference to students of library sciences and should stipulate either diploma or bachelor degree in library sciences as minimum qualification.
Total vacant posts
Name of post Sanctioned posts Vacant
Librarian 96 71
Restorer 72 34
In govt colleges
Name of post Sanctioned Vacant
Librarian 68 51
Restorer 52 27
In district libraries
Name of post Sanctioned Vacant
Librarian 28 20
Restorer 22 07