1. Rural Library
2. Ancient Period
3. Medieval Period
4. Modern Period
5. Present status of Rural Libraries of Assam
6. Factors that are hindering the Rural Library Movement in Assam
Purpose: To trace the scenario of Rural Library movement in Assam.
Design/methodology/approach: The study is mainly based on the review of existing primary literature, personal communication with the representative of different professional organization, association etc that are associated with rural libraries in Assam and the physical observation and personal working experience of the author as a Research assistant in the ICSSR Project “Rural Libraries of North East India: A machine readable database”.
Findings: Most of the rural libraries in Assam spontaneously developed as a part of Namgarh, Satra, Mosque, Club, Societies etc. Assam Library Association during its childhood period makes a great effort to establish a number of rural libraries. In the subsequent years the Government through Directorate of Library Service, Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha etc try to register the already established rural libraries. The subsequent management in terms of monetary requirement of rural libraries is still vested with the public except those that are undertaken by Directorate of Library Service. During present time the rural libraries in Assam facing major financial crises and the Government and RRRLF financial grant are unable to cover even a fraction of the total need of the rural libraries.
Originality/value: This is the first study in Assam that will depicts the scenario of the rural library movement in Assam in terms of contribution from government, RRRLF, Kolkata, Assam Library Association, Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha etc.
Research Limitations/Implications: The rural libraries itself is developing in Assam so the article to remain effective, recent addition and development should be added in subsequent years.
Keywords: Rural Library, Rural Libraries, Community Library. Assam.
The rural communities are the basic unit of social, economic and cultural life of Assam and also the centers of political and administrative activities like the urban communities. Major portions of population in Assam are living in villages and hope to be so for many years to come. The socio- economic development of the rural masses depends upon the organized information generation, communication and distribution for the public of that region. All these are only possible through proper library services. So to meet the demand, to provide access to information free of charge the village library under the public library system is must for rural areas. It is the central nerve of rural community when we consider in terms of self education, social force, spreading the minimum knowledge for living a mentally alert, physically healthy and spiritually alert life. It is an excellent means to strengthen the backbone of a society, to enlighten the minds, stimulate the spirit and to bring harmony and peace in the society. It acts as a mediator between the rural people and other external bodies in making people aware.
1. Rural library
A public library is people’s university and an asset of democratic country; it has at its base the rural library. The term ‘rural library’ means the library which is situated and served the rural areas, free of charge or for a nominal fee. It is considered as a library open to all the rural people irrespective of race, region, colour, sex, language status, educational attainment etc. It is available for use to all who have desire of using it. A rural library is an integral part of mass education programme and its main aim is rural development. The prime objective is to take forward the backward community, the neglected and the suppress people of the society through various programmes and to preserve the literary heritage of the local social life.
2. Ancient Period
Ancient Assam is well known for its love for books, education and libraries. This was testified by the fact mention in Bana Bhatta’s Harsha Charita. It was mention in this document that Bhaskaravarman, a king of Kamrup in sixth century sent to Harshavardhana Siladitya of Thaneswar, Subhasita anthologies among several other presentations through his emissary named Hamsaveg (Mittal: 1971: 20). The Subhasita was a manuscript written on Sanchipat (The writing sheets prepared from the bark of Agaru or Sanchi tree). This was sufficient to prove that manuscripts were practiced in ancient Assam as early as 7th century A.D. But in those days the libraries were the nucleus of effective repository of our cultural heritage for preservation and storage, they were not for dissemination of information.
3. Medieval Period
a) Vaishnava renaissance: During the period 1449-1568 AD, Assam witnessed the Vaishnava renaissance which was initiated by Shankardev and was followed by an enlightened king Narananarayana. They were responsible for the production of new books and translation into Assamese of various religious books. The neo-vaisnavism of Sankardev was instrumental in the establishment of mutts and libraries which were known as Sattra and Namghar. These two places were the repositories of old Manuscripts.
b) Royal Families: Several Ahom kings were lovers of books and libraries. They kept the buranjis written in Ahom and Assamese language in the Royal Archives called as Gandhiya Bhasal. The first public library in Assam was established at Guwahati Seminar in 1854 (Barkataki: 2005: 164).
4. Modern Period
4.1 Role of the British
In 1903 a small library was started in Shillong by the British Government (Mittal: 1971: 21). This library was known as “The Assam Government public library” whose service was limited to the official of the state government in particular and the inhabitant of the capital in general. It was housed in a rented building and had a very small book collection. This library was later on amalgamated with the State Central Library, Assam. The British ruler was also responsible for establishment of some other library at the district Head Quarters such as Victoria Hall at Dhubri, Holiday home at Nagaon etc (Bordoloi: 1997: 35). At that time Bishnu Ram Hall of Jorhat, Women Library at Dhubri, Children Library of Sylhet, Bani Library at Tezpur was functioning as the true public library.
4.2 Role of Personal library
“It was considered very essential for an Assamese gentleman to acquire knowledge of history of his country; so every family was converted into archives which served as mini library in the society” (Sharma: 1997: 5). Personal library of Laboram Dutta of Dibrugarh, Akshay Ghose and Bhagavati Prasad Baruah of Sibsagar etc are well known at that time which were able to cater to the need of the localities to a greater extent.
4.3 Role of the Government
In 1954 a central library was established at Shillong as a first step towards implementing the scheme of “Improvement of library service” which was sponsor under the first five year plan (1952-57). In 1956 the “Central library” was amalgamated with the “Assam Government Public Library” and renamed as “State Central Library” (Mittal: 1971). This library functions as headquarter to look after the seven District Libraries that was established in plain Assam in 1955 at Silchar (Cachar), Tezpur (Darrang), Dhubri (Goalpara), Gauhati (Kamrup), Dibrugarh (Lakhimpur) Nagaon (Nagaon) and Jorhat (Sibsagar) under the Educational Development Scheme of “Improvement of Library Services” as sponsored by the Govt of India. The role of the State Central Library as an apex Library in the public library system in Assam ended when the Directorate of Library Service, Assam was comes into focus in 1984. The benefit of the library services have also been extended to the remote villages since 1955-56 through “Book mobile services” and four vans have been catering to 170 deposit centre spread all over the state. During 1957 permanent libraries building were constructed with aid from the Government of India at Shillong and at district headquarter i.e. Guwahati, Tezpur, Shilchar and Jorhat to house the district libraries at an cost of Rs. 40,70,000/- and the collection were shifted in between 1958-60. For the library of Lakhimpur a site has been acquire at a cost of Rs. 22,800/ and the library of Goalpara were also consider at latte on.
“Two district libraries at Diphu and Haflong were established in 1967-68 in the two hill district of Karbi”. Five sub divisional libraries were also established in 1967/68 at Goalpara, Golaghat, Karimganj, North Lakhimpur and Sibsagar. During 1967/68 also the development blocks under the community projects and Development Department, Assam and the wing of the Directorate of Public Instruction, Assam i.e State Social Education Office, Gauhati gave a grant of Rs. 1,26,343 for the maintenance of 2,180 village libraries in the state. (Mittal: 1971: 22). In 1969/70 another five sub divisional library was established at Barpeta, Hailakandi, Kokrajhar, Mangaldoi and Nalbari. All these were considering to house in their existing library building. In the financial year 1971-72 the government gives grant of Rs. 1,45,000/- to 1350 libraries.
The shifting of the Capital of Assam from Shillong to Guwahati also resulted the shifting of State Central Library to Guwahati in the month of December, 1973 (Bordoloi: 1997: 36) and was temporarily accommodated in the District library building at Guwahati. The Reference cum Research wing of the State Central Library was established at Dispur Capital Complex in 1975. (Hussain: 2005: 108)
During the period of 1969/70 – 1984/85 another district library and 3 sub divisional library were established. So till 1984/85 one state central library, 10 District libraries (Out of 18 district at that time) and 13 sub divisional libraries were functioning in Assam.
In the 4th five year plan the government provides one time grant of Rs. 3,000/- to a few rural libraries. In the year 1986 Government has decided to establish 714 rural libraries in each of the 714 Gaonpanchayats but only 240 such rural libraries has been set up (Barman: 2002: 138). The 72nd constitutional Amendment of 1992 and 73rd and 74th constitutional Amendment, 1993 empowered Gram Panchayat / Village Authorities / Munichapal Authorities to establish and maintain Public libraries and till 2006 a total of 2489 Panchayat is there but nobodies know how many of them have rural libraries attached to them.
In the year 1987 a full fledged children library was established at Bishnu Nirmala Trust’s building at Guwahati and in the year 1988/89 four sub divisional libraries at Hojai, Charaideo, South Salmara and Odalguri were setup. A library was also organized at Nabin Chandra Bordoloi Hall (Curzon Hall) in 1991. Four sub divisional libraries at Morigaon, Dhemaji, Tinsukia and Hailakandi were upgraded to the District Library in the year 1995 (Bordoloi: 1997: 36-37).
In 2001/02 Rs. 7.50 crores were received for construction of District Library Building at Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Morigaon, Tinsukia and Karimganj from the Central Government. (Hussain: 2005: 109). The eleventh Finance Commission gives a grant of Rs.5.60 crores to the Directorate of Library Services of Assam for infrastructure development of libraries. During 2004/05 it again received Rs. 50 lakh for computerization of all district libraries.
The total fund spent through Directorate of Library service, Assam during recent times is shown below
|Year||Salary / wages
|Construction of building|
|Addl Central Assistance|
|Table 1: Total fund spent through the Directorate of Library Services in recent years (Source: Twelve State Library Planning Committee convener’s conference: February 06, 2006, p.13).|
|Storage||Training||Increasing Accommodation||Children||Voluntary Organization|
|Table 2: Assistance received by the Directorate of Library Services under various matching and non matching scheme (Source: Twelve State Library Planning Committee convener’s conference: February 06, 2006, 14).|
* Non Matching Grant
a) Structure of Libraries under Directorate of Library service: In 1984 the Directorate of Library Service, Assam was formed by the Govt of Assam as the head of the Department to improve, supervision and control with better administration which resulted the vesting of responsibility of the State Central Library, Assam to its shoulder. The Directorate of Library service, Assam is looked after by the Ministry of Cultural Affair Department, Govt of Assam. The whole hierarchical structure along with the no of libraries it covers is as shown bellow.
|Sl No||Type of Library||No. of libraries|
|1||Directorate of Library Service, Assam||1 No|
|2||District Library||23 Nos|
|3||Branch Library||4 Nos|
|4||Sub Divisional library||14 Nos|
|5||Rural Library||204 Nos|
|Total 246 Nos|
|Table 3: Libraries under Directorate of Library service, Assam.|
Out of the 204 Nos sanctioned rural libraries in Assam 200 Nos are in Plain district where as only 4 are there in the hill area.
b) Pay structure of Rural Library Staff: In case of rural library that are under the Directorate of Library Services, Assam only one or two library personal are appointed. One is librarian and other is helper. Generally most of the librarians are under graduate with a very short term training courses. The Government of Assam by Memo no.: CAD.278/03/53 dt. 7th April, 2005 made the following amendment to the gross pay of the librarian and helper which comes to the effect from 1/8/2004.
|1||Librarian||Rs. 900/-||Who has completed more than 10 years of service|
|2||Librarian||Rs. 500/-||Who has completed less than 10 years but more than 5 years|
|3||Librarian||Rs. 250/-||Less than 5 years of service|
|Table 4: The Gross pay structure of the staff of rural libraries|
The rural library services in Assam practically started in the early part of the 20th century and to modern shape during 1980-90 following the implementation of the scheme of ‘Rural library complex which had been included in the 7th Five year plan in 1984-85 and approval by the planning commission. As a result of this scheme it has become possible to provide services to the rural communities through the districts libraries which are controlled by the state central library under the supervision of the Directorate of Library service, Assam and at present the state central library and the office of the Directorate of Library Service both are functioning in the building of District Library at Guwahati.
4.4 Role of Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation
“It was indeed an epoch making event in the history of public libraries in India when in the year 1972, on the occasion of celebration of the bicentenary of Raja Rammohun Roy who raised the banner of revolt against obscurantism in the society and devoted his life to fight against forces that shackle and retard, the foundation came into being” (RRRLF: 2003: 33). RRRLF is an autonomous organization of Dept of Culture, Govt of India and it provides following types of grant to different libraries.
a) Book Assistance: Assistance under the scheme is given from two sources
i) Matching sources and
ii) Non matching sources.
b) Financial Assistance: The financial assistance may be of the following types
i) Assistance towards organization of seminars, workshop, training courses (orientation / refresher) and book exhibition.
ii) Assistance towards storage and display of book
iii) Assistance towards development of rural book deposit centers and mobile library services.
iv) Assistance to public libraries below district level for increasing accommodation.
v) Assistance to public libraries to acquire TV cum VCP sets for educational purposes / Computer for application to libraries.
vi) Assistance to voluntary organization providing public library services.
vii) Assistance to children libraries and children’s section of general public libraries.
viii) Assistance towards organization of seminars / conferences by national level organization.
ix) Assistance to libraries towards celebration of centenary year / 125 year / 150 year / 175 year and like.
x) Assistance towards collection and compilation of library statistics through official and non official agencies.
xi) Assistance to libraries in North Eastern states out of special non matching fund.
|Table 5: Matching share of RRRLF with State Government in the ratio of 1:1
Source: (Bardoloi: 2000:125)
In the year 1998/99-1999/00 seven (7) rural libraries that are run by voluntary organization received a total of Rs. 5,05,042/- from the foundation. (Bardoloi: 2000: 125) and in the year 2002/03 the foundation sanctioned a special grant of Rs. 123.05 lakh for N.E. States (RRRLF: 2003: 47) out of which Assam received a total of Rs. 19,14,807/- [For training Rs. 2,27,290/- For book Rs. 9,98,820/- and for storage Rs. 6,88,697/- (RRRLF: 2003: p.109)]. Out of the total fund 11 NYK (Nehru Yuvak Kendra was established for the welfare of non-student youth between 15-35 years of age under Youth service programme of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. These are centrally sponsored libraries) received a total of Rs. 12,500/-, the rest amount are distributed among the 1 state central library, 22 Divisional or District libraries. By this way a total of 34 libraries were benefited by the RRRLF during 2002/03.
In the year 2003/05 the Kanakpur Progatishil Club (Hafzur Rahman Memorial Library), Kanakpur, Nilambazar, Karimganj received a total of Rs. 1,20,000/- (RRRLF: 2004: 45) for building under the scheme of assistance to voluntary organization providing public library services, 15 libraries received a total of Rs. 1,50,000/- under the scheme of financial assistance to children libraries of children section of general public libraries, while 9 centrally sponsor libraries receive a total of Rs. 22,474/- that means only a total of 33 libraries were benefited by RRRLF during 2003/04 (1 State central library, 22 divisional/District libraries, 9 NYK and 1 voluntary organization). It should need to mention here that the fund received by state central library from RRRLF also distributes the same among 245 libraries that it covers. So in reality there are very few libraries in Assam that are benefited by the RRRLF, Kolkata.
4.5 Role of Assam Library Association
The Assam Library Association (Sadau Assam Puthibharal Sanga) was started in the year 1938 mainly by the personal enthusiasm of Shri Kumudeswar Borthakur (1893-8th November 1966), a man who devoted his life for the growth and development of libraries in Assam; he was fully assisted in the matter of public library services by Lokpriya Gopinath Bardoloi and other political and social workers. By establishing this association Assam invades the list to become the first 8th state in establishing state level library Association. After the executive meeting held on 16th July 1972 ALA becomes inactive up to 1996. On 22nd February, 1997 it got revived with a full fledged executive council. The main contributions of ALA towards rural libraries are
a) Making people aware: After the birth of ALA “arrangement for a wide publicity of library movement was made through different avenues like Bihu festivals, public meeting, advertisement through the screen of Kelvin Cinema, Guwahati etc.” (Sharma: 1997: 7-8). Daily newspaper, market places were widely used for making the people alert. Children were encouraged to demand books from their parents on the occasion of their birthday or in good performance in their academic life. Daily ‘mustibhiksha’ (a handful of grains) were advised for the lower income group and money collected by selling these grains were advised to spend for libraries.
b) Organization of rural libraries: In the 1st conference of Assam Library Association in 1938 hardly 50 libraries were recorded to have been engaged in library work throughout villages of Assam and during the span of 10 years (1938-1948) Barthakur organized 250 libraries (Sharma: 2000: p.106). Between May-July, 1971 it established Goalpara, Tezpur, Jorhat, Nagaon, Nalbari, Barpeta, Dibrugarh, Mangoldoi, Guwahati Mahkuma Committee for carrying out its activities but in subsequent years it does not give any fruitful result. The association further at its “Granthalok” of 1972/73 listed 169 rural libraries of Assam with details address (Granthalok: 1973: 81-87) that are affiliated to ALA.
c) Draft public library Act: On the invitation of the eight conferences (1964) of the All Assam Library Association held at Gauhati, Dr. S. R. Ranganathan prepared a Draft Public Libraries Act for Assam which was submitted to the Government and further in the 9th Annual conference held at Guwahati on 9, 10 and 11th April, 1971 reiterated to its earlier demand was made but it did not give any fruitful result up till now. The Draft Public Library Act was published in the Souvenir of Assam Library Association of 1971. Again since 1998 attempt has continuously been made to leaser extent to enact the library legislation in Assam.
d) Training of library personnel: Through a resolution passed at the eight conferences (1964), the All Assam Library Association had resolved to start a certificate course in library science but till now it does not lead to any fruitful results.
e) Publication: In connection with the 8th Annual conference of 1964 it published one Souvenir; Souvenir was also published by the reception committee of 9th Annual conference in 1971. At the 10th Annual Conference on 24th and 25th November, 1972 at Nagaon the half yearly official organ of the association by name “Granthalok” makes appear. In 1972/73 it brings out another volume of its official organ Granthalok. One newsletter was also published in the year 1999.
f) Annual conferences: It also made an attempt to build up a voluntary village library system through organization of conferences in different district and the association has been able by this way to enlist and arouse public support and sympathy for public libraries by holding different conferences at Dibrugarh (1938), Tezpur (1952), Nagawn, Jorhat (1953), Golaghat (1955), Bokakhat (1957), Mangoldoi (1959), Guwahati (8th conference, 24th and 25th October 1964), Guwahati (9th conference on 9, 10 and 11th April, 1971), Nagaon (10th Annual Conference on 24th and 25th November, 1972) etc.
g) Librarians day celebration: In 1998 ALA celebrate ‘librarian’s day’ with GLA at Guwahati and in 1999 with Jorhat Library Association. It has observed its 12th Annual Conference during 12th August at Guwahati District Library Auditorium along with that librarians Day is also observed with Department of Library and Information Science, Gauhati University and Guwahati Library Association.
4.6 Role of Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha
‘Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha’ was formed on 27th January, 1985 at Nagaon District Library Auditorium with a spontaneous decision by the representatives of village libraries and social workers” (Annual Report: 2002-2003: 1) in the meet of a state level village library conference called by Nagaon Zila Puthibharal Santha. The Santha has established a library by name “Ranganathan Library” at its head office in the year 1996-97 which has a collection of more than 19,000 books and other journal and has a total no of 713 register user as on 2003. The Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha with its Mahkuma and Zila Santha working hole heartedly for the growth and development of rural libraries of Assam. The main contributions of Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha are as follows.
a) Act as a registry: The Santha act as a Library registry of the rural libraries scattered in different region of Assam and presently it has 446 rural libraries member (As on 5 August 2006), 12 no of Zila Santha and 30 Mahkuma Santha. Its life member increases to 300 in the year 2003.
b) Book Grant: Since 1999-2000 the santha is taking initiative on the book grant of valued of Rs. 1000/- to each library every year. It also supplied news paper and magazine to the rural libraries.
c) Mobile library Services: To conduct the mobile library services, to supply the books to the rural libraries of Assam it has procure a Tata Sumo and the programme was initiated as on 14th October 2001.
d) Training of librarian: Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha launched its first training programme at Sankardev Kalashetra, Guwahati on 9 August, 2001 which was provided at Mukti Jujaru Jirani Griha (=Freedom fighter rest house) of Rup Nagar, Guwahati on 10-11 August. In this training programme 36 candidates participated. After the successful completion it has decided to provide training to 100 librarians each year and in recent times more or less working on the decision.
e) Awards: The Santha has awarded ‘Library Scientist Dr. Sibali Ramamrita Ranganathan Memorial Award’, ‘Library Activist Lt. Kumudeswar Borthakur Award’, ‘Puthibharal Ratna’ title to the prominent Library Activist from Assam. In 2001 for the first time the titles goes to Mr. Ram Goswamee (Puthibharal Ratna), Prof. Bhadra Bora (Library Scientist Dr. Sibali Ramamrita Ranganathan Memorial Award) and Mr. Abhyacharan Barkotoki (Library Activist Lt. Kumudeswar Borthakur Award).
f) Publication: The Santh has publishing a magazine by name “Gyan Jyoti”. For bringing the details of Santha’s monthly works it brings out “News Letter Bulletin” and at the end of year it “Annual report”.
g) Celebration of Librarians day, National Library week: The Santha is observing 27th January every year as its foundation day. Since 1991 the Santha has been observing Puthibharal Week as the foundation week. In this week training programme for the librarian, seminar on rural libraries aspect and book exhibition is regularly conducted. Since 1992 sanhta is observing “Puthibharal Divas” on 9th August every year.
h) Others: Besides the above it conducted a number of Conference and Seminars, observed different divas, festival etc. In 2002 it has conducted a programme on preservation of manuscripts and rare books at Nagaon and Morigaon district of Assam with the financial assistance of the National Archive, Govt of India, New Delhi.
4.7 Role of Assam Rural Library Employees’ Association
Assam Rural Library Employees’Association was established in 1990 at Aula Chowka of Darrang District. This association till now limits its scope in fighting for the status and pay scale for its employs only. In recent years the organization is forcing the government again and again to increase the pay to Rs. 2000/- and to Rs. 1200/- for the designation of the librarian and Helper respectively (As proposed vide reference no.: DLSE.172/2004-05/920 dt. 28th October, 04). The founder secretary of this association, Mr. Dinesh Patowary by his personal enthusiasm prepares two lists of rural libraries of Tamulpur development block and Nalbari District. The List of Tamulpur development block contains 71 libraries whereas the second list of rural libraries of Nalbari District has 312 rural libraries. We hope in near future this association will also take part in arranging different training programmes for the employed library staff of different rural libraries of Assam.
4.8 Role of Department of Library and Information Science, Gauhati University
The Department of Library and Information Science, Gauhati University was established in 1966 with one year Bachelor of Library Science (B.Lib.Sc) course. In 2001, integrated two year MLISc course (with 4 Semesters) was introduced incorporating course contents covering modern approaches in librarianship in its revised syllabus which replace the previous BLISc and MLISc courses. Almost all district librarians and sub divisional librarians including Library assistant under the Director of Library Services, Government of Assam and many more district librarians of neighboring states are manned by the Department of Library and Information Science, Gauhati University.
i) Research Project: On 1st October 2004 the Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi sponsor a major research project on “Rural Libraries of North East India: A machine Readable Database” for two years under the Directorship of Prof. Narendra Lahkar at the cost of Rs. 3.75 Lakh. The outcome of this project hopes to be a valuable reference tool to the entire field of rural library.
ii) National Seminar: During March 27 – 28, 2007 the Department of Library and Information Science and Central Reference Library, Kolkata jointly organize a National Seminar on “Problems and Prospects of Rural Libraries with reference to North East India”, the first of its kind in the entire North East India.
iii) Publication: The Department of Library and Information Science brings out a souvenir to commemorate the Silver Jubilee celebration during 4-5 July, 1992 by name “Librarianship in North East India” which was edited by Prof. Bhadra Borah. Again on August 2004 it launce its first volume of its official journal by name “Journal of Library and Information Science, Gauhati University” which was edited by Prof. Narendra Lahkar.
iv) Librarian’s Day celebration: The Department also celebrate librarians day regularly with a day long programme.
4.9 Guwahati Library Association (GLA)
The highly inactive state of Assam Library Association was on the back behind the establishment of GLA on 8th February, 1993 by some enthusiastic library personnel at District Library, Guwahati. The first ad-hoc executive body meeting was held at Department of Library & Information Science, Gauhati University on 2nd July 1993 and the first general body meeting was held on 6th December 1993. (Talukdar: 2002: 55).
i) Librarian’s Day celebration: Under the banner of Guwahati Library Association the librarian’s day was celebrated for the first time in Assam on 12th August, 1994 at Lakhiram Barooah Sadan, Guwahati.
ii) Revival of ALA: The GLA is behind the revival of ALA in 1996. In 1996 when it was observing the librarians day at Guwahati District Library, in the afternoon its platform was given to the living members of ALA for its revival (Sharma: 1997: 14-15) and ultimately it got revived on 22nd February, 1997 through 11th Annual conference at Gauri Sadan, Guwahati.
iii) Conferences and seminar: The first annual conference of GLA was held at Assam Agricultural University Campus, Khanapara (1995). And since then its annual conference were more or less regularly been held.
iv) Publication: The GLA in connection with its first annual conference in 1995 bring out a souvenir by name “Librarianship in Assam: A Challenging profession” which was edited by Bhupen Goswamee. After that it has publish another 4 volume of its souvenir and one Newsletter in 2001. Out of five publications three was edited by Mr. Bhupen Goswamee and the rest two are edited by Wooma Sankar Dev Nath.
Within its own scope the GLA is serving more or less for the growth and development of the profession in Assam.
4.10 Nagaon Zila Puthibharal Santha
The Nagaon Zila Puthibharal Santha took birth on 6th June, 1982. (Annual Report: 2002-2003: 1). Its major contribution towards growth and development of rural libraries is that it had taken a leading role for establishment of Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha.
4.11 Role of the public
RRRLF and government finance is not sufficient to meet the need of the rural libraries. Most of the rural libraries are still functioning by the contribution of the general public, especially the book lovers and the main hope for running such type of libraries relies with the highly energetic youth generation voluntarily. Interestingly many of the young generation also think themselves as responsible for carrying the touch of the light of knowledge to the rural masses. Such types of libraries are abundant in rural areas as a part of the Namgarh, Sangha etc. and are unable to cover by the Directorate of Library Services, Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha, and Assam Library Association etc. Some voluntary organization like NGO and other also maintains rural libraries as a part for their drive in awaking the rural communities.
It is also a good sign that many of the rural libraries are generating their own fund by arranging various cultural programmes like musical night, magic show, games, lottery, inviting theatre etc. Sometimes the library staff and its patron by working for the families of the villages on their various occasions like marriage, child birth, cultivation work etc collect a fee for the library and these types of libraries are very active within their localities. We may feel proud of such types of libraries; they should be identified and further encouraged for their achievement so that other can follow their lines.
5. Present status of Rural Libraries of Assam: The Present status of Rural Libraries of Assam can be depicting from the following table.
|Sl No||Affiliation / Register under||No. of libraries|
|1||Directorate of Library service, Assam||204 Nos|
|2||Assam Library Association||169 Nos|
|3||Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha||446 Nos|
|4||Assam Rural Library Employs Association||383 Nos|
|Duplicate entry in the above list||29 Nos|
|Grand Total||1173 Nos|
|Table 6: Present Status of Rural Libraries of Assam|
So at present a total of 1173 rural libraries exist in Assam. Further this list is not exclusive as none of the above organization, other voluntary bodies, individual able to map the actual number of rural libraries. It can be hope that the lists definitely cross the limit of 3000, though still it is an assumption only.
6. Factors that are hindering the rural library movement in Assam
a) Library legislation: There is a need for library legislation to ensure effective financial support to all public libraries so that they can serve the people free of charge. It is responsible for the performance, uniform development and efficiency with at least the minimum standard to the satisfaction of readers. The non enactment of library legislation is behind the slow growth of rural libraries in Assam. The library professional along with some other person should feel the need of enactment of Library legislation to provide library facilities directly from the state levels to the village level under the Directorate of Library services, Assam.
b) Financial Problem: Finance is the major things for improvement of all non profit making organization and as such for a library also. It is the force that defines the functions, power and amount of autonomy. The prime financial sources of rural libraries are public donation and government grant. But many rural libraries are unable to get proper financial support neither from the public nor from the government. The RRRLF is also not active in this regard.
i) Lack of government grants: The Assam Government is always neglecting the role of libraries in the rural communities.
ii) Lack of Public Donation: Most of the rural libraries are maintained by public through public donation but the people of rural region are not financially sound and as such they couldn’t properly donate for the library.
iii) Lack of Subscription: The libraries used to collect a monthly subscription from its members. But in general the members of rural libraries are negligible and the fee collected by this way is not worth mentioning.
c) Poorly developed infrastructure: It is general expectancy, what will be seen in an organization that is not financially sound. Most of the rural libraries have not their own library building, they housed as a part of the building own by the village club / Sangha etc. The libraries that are having their own library building also lack proper lighting facility and are congested. In the name of the furniture the library is having one or two wooden almirah for the book stock, one or two chairs for the library staff and two or three benches that are lacking white coat for many years for the reader to sit. What contribute can be made by such a poorly organized institute for the growth and development for the country.
d) Irrelevant Book stock: The book selection procedure of the rural libraries is highly centralized and bureaucratic procedure in which the RRLF or the Directorate of Library Service take the active part and local needs of the community have no bearing on the acquisition of books for the library. One can easily imagine what the need will be served by such a collection.
e) Inconvenient opening hour: “What use can be a library if the majority of people who have to be bread earning of some sort cannot use it for its odd timings?” (Barkotoki: 1973: 62). How a library can be useful to those who are overburden by work load in their office or agricultural field? It is only the morning or evening hours when they will be able to manage the time for reading and one can easily understood what will happen when they will move to the nearby library at these hours. He/she will notice that the door of the library was shut before him/her.
f) Lack of Library extension services: In Rural Assam the major portion of the population are still illiterates, among the literate also there is only a small portion that have desire to study or time to study after their day long livelihood job in the agricultural field. In such an environment if rural libraries limit its scope in providing services to its user only then it must lose its support from the community. So it’s the demands of the time to extend the rural library services beyond its scope to reach the illiterate people by programme such as “Education to illiterate”, Celebration of festival, dissemination of local information to outside of its own boundary through newspaper of daily, weekly etc. and by this way to extend the user base of the library for getting proper support.
g) Lack of Service oriented mind: In Assam even the district level library are failing to attract the reader. “Go to any Govt library and you will not need hours to realize how far removed are the realities from what they should be.” (Barkotoki: 1973: 61). This type of syndrome is at the root of the poor quality of public library service available in all subsequent branches and that’s why they are not getting proper attention neither from the user nor from the authorities.
h) Lack of motivation: The staff of the rural libraries is not getting proper incentives for their position and as a result they don’t feel motivated to work for the library.
i) Lack of Training: Only a fraction of the rural library staff benefited by the training that is provided by the Directorate of Library Service or Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha the others remain outside of its domain.
j) Lack of Interest from the villagers: Most of the villagers live their life by some oral tradition and are satisfied by chores of daily life. They devote very little time for relaxation and amusement purposes and have a strong belief that bookish knowledge is not anyway related with them, they does not consider formal education as an input to improve their competence in the job market, skill for improving living standard or quality of life , the growing unemployment further strengthen their view. So, there are lacks of interest from their children in using library service. The rural library is like alarm beginnings sure to bring a good result provided the people for whom libraries are meant to come forward.
k) Lack of subsequent management: The number of rural libraries that makes its origin in Assam is really commendable. But the astonishing fact is that every year a great number of rural libraries also lost in the dark ages due to lack of finance, proper leadership and such other factor. The contributing factors towards this end are
i) Manny of the rural libraries become active in some period while they generally run by some unemployed highly energetic youth and after their engagement in some other livelihood job they could not make the arrangement of time to carry out their social responsibility and others in the society are unable to replace them and to take the responsibility seriously as a result the libraries slowly and steadily become defunct.
ii) The Government, Sadau Assam Gramya Puthibharl Santha and others show keen interest in establishing Rural libraries in different places of Assam and their subsequent registration to show the number but sufficiently inactive in reactivating the rural libraries that are already established.
Though in ancient Assam there was the process of preservation of books under the royal patronage but these were only for the scholarly persons, not for the common people. The true modern library system in Assam started from 1903. Later on the library movement at its true sprit led by Late Kumudeshar Barthakur, a retired Secondary School teacher under the brand name of Assam Library Association.
The different Library Association in Assam such as Assam Library Association, Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha, Assam Rural Library Employs Association, Nagaon Zila Puthibharal Santha, Jorhat Library Association, Dibrugarh Library Association etc mainly focus on celebration of Librarians day, different divas, holding seminars and conferences etc. A few of them bring out Journal or newsletter in LIS. But they solely abandon the function as an organizer of training programmes for the working librarian in different rural libraries in Assam except Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha. They also failed till now to work collaborately for the implementation of Library legislation in the state.
The rural libraries that are run by the general public, NGO, Club etc. does not feel it obligation on their part to register them under the Society Registration Act, Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha etc. The Government of Assam through Directorate of Library Service is also unable to take their responsibilities. So there is no scope to have the total number of rural libraries that are in existence in Assam. The government grant distributed through the Directorate of Library Services, Assam and RRRLF are unable to cover even a fraction of the total need of rural libraries in Assam. In the coming days also, definitely there will be a huge number of rural libraries that will remain outside to receive any such grant.
In modern times the population is ever increasing but in comparison with that the rural library is not increasing. Previously out of 714 village’s 204 rural libraries were under Directorate of Library Service, Assam which still continue even though the total villages rose to more than 2,100, so practically the major portion of rural areas in Assam is without library services. The condition of already existing libraries is also serious, if appropriate steps are not taken in due course the whole system will be vanish.
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