A quote says ‘no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest’, but public libraries in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi have turned into abandoned places owing to ignorance of the people.
The number of books issued every month, entrance of new members and daily visitors are shockingly low in two main public libraries of Islamabad and Rawalpindi — Islamabad Public Library, which is closed for renovation for last six months, and Rawalpindi Municipal Library.
Islamabad Public Library Deputy Director Hafiz Hubaibur Rehman said the library had been lying closed for the last six months because it had been shifted to H-9 from G-8 Markaz and its renovation was underway. He said when the library was properly functioning in G-8 Markaz about 10 to 12 new members were registered every month and about 50 books were issued daily. “Keeping in view our reading habit, this data seems satisfactory,” he said, while defending poor public response towards the library, which houses over 40,000 books.
Municipal Library, situated at the heart of the city near Liaquat Bagh, was established in 1868. The library having a collection of over 48,000 books paints rather bleak picture. Library’s Assistant Librarian Raheela Siddiqui hopelessly said two to four new members were registered on average every month, adding some times no new member joined the library. She said about 10 to 12 books were issued daily, however, before long holidays like Eid holidays, the number slightly swelled to 25 to 30. “In the late 80s, there used to be a lot of activity in the library. But now situation is very pathetic. Perhaps our reading habit has changed altogether with the advent of technology,” she added.
National Book Foundation MD Mazharul Islam said unfortunately proper reading culture had never been developed and encouraged in the country, adding: “You will never find libraries in villages and small towns.” He said he had seen a lot of activity in public libraries in Canada, Thailand, Germany, Norway, Italy and Japan. “In Norway every newborn baby becomes a member of the book club, which starts sending books to babies as they grow up. This step creates book reading habit,” he added. To attract public interest towards libraries, he said, annual budget for libraries should be increased so that they could buy latest books in sufficient numbers.
An elderly man, who is a regular visitor of Municipal Library, said the federal capital was one of the cities which were expanding rapidly due to urbanisation, but no new public library had been inaugurated in the recent past. “Roads are overloaded with traffic and shopping malls are overcrowded, but I wonder why reading culture is slowly dwindling in our society,” he added.