TODAY -

Contemporary issues of Library in Manipur

S Muansangluai Ngaihte *

Manipur University Library at Manipur University (MU), Canchipur
Manipur University Library at Manipur University (MU), Canchipur :: Pix - Phurailatpam Banti



"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library."
- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

"When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself."
-Isaac Asimov, Renowned author and American Scientist (Biochemistry)

Prologue

Without data or news there can be no information, without information there can be no knowledge, without knowledge there can be no wisdom and similarly without wisdom there can be no personal and social development. So, sustainability of development can only persist when information is systematically stored in an organized manner, and can be retrieved in the form of printed or in electronic format. This requires a place where those packed information can be acquired, organized, classified, retrieved and disseminated by professionals time and again.

With the development of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the 21st century, there has been a tremendous development not only in the production of printed books and periodicals, but also in the production of electronic books and journals and other information which are readily available on the internet for worldwide use. In all these developments, libraries and its professionals play a pivotal role.

As such the importance of libraries is increasing day by day. Today, people are facing the problem of information explosion resulting in the need of a Librarian who knows the right information for the right information-seeker and who also knows how to give the information at the right time thereby saving the invaluable time of the information seeker. In fact the role of libraries and librarians are becoming more and more vital in this present age. Recognizing the importance of libraries, nowadays many institutions/ organizations/ departments in the world are encouraging the growth and development of libraries in their respective institutions and areas.

Present Scenario in Manipur

Library situation in Manipur is still amateur due to lack of opportunity, in every aspect, for the library professionals to expose their skills. Unskilled persons simply handle most of the public and school libraries in Manipur. In fact automation, digitization of public library in Manipur is still a utopia. Majority of the civil societies, bureaucrats still doubt what role the library has in the up liftmen of academic and social life of the people, and they see no pragmatic impact in any aspect. People still underestimate its importance.

In my last article which was published a couple of months back; I had mentioned the basic concept of what a library means to us. Yes! According to laymen's perception, a library is the place where books are stored but still only a few of us can truly acknowledge the role it plays in our academic institution and so on. The Secretary of Manipur Library Association (MALA-since 1987) Dr. Ch. Ibohal Singh has observed that any effort for education reforms would remain a mere dream if attention is not given to libraries which are the hearts of quality education. Even though Manipur is the sixth state in the country which has its own Library Act, the existing Manipur Libraries Act-1988 is still non-operational.

Due to lack of proper attention from the side of the concerned authorities or department, public libraries in Manipur have remained miserable. Based on my pilot study, there are many librarian posts lying vacant in Government colleges, but the Government is neglecting to fill up these posts. No core importance is given to library professionals.

Focusing on Lamka in particular, there are lots of witnesses that in most of the institutions, libraries exist only by name sake, in fact, no proper maintenance or professional staffs are available. Our District library (established since 1974), for instance, is at present dysfunctional with no staff. Only the warden is responsible for maintenance.

As per the Manipur Public Library Legislation Act 1988 (Vide Rule Chapter IV), District Library Authorities are to be maintained, which are supposed to be led by the administrative head of the district, but at this point of time it is only in theory with a proper record, but no implementation so far. Even some schools and colleges have just a handful of professional staff which is still considered as just the catalyst of institution but not the foundation of it. Shortages of staff are everywhere i.e. there is no paradigm of development so far.

MALA took an initiative part in development of Library Legislation Act-1988, but there is still no response from the state government as yet. Despite of all the stagnant situation of library movement in our state, fortunately few of our new generation came to aware of its important, and we are now having a handful of professional trainee. Although the educational benefit that libraries bring to communities is well known in other states and countries, some still wonder about the impact that libraries have. An educational institution without a good library is a failure. As per UGC Criteria, all colleges' and universities should focus more on library for effective learning and service given to teachers, researchers, students by libraries. However, the State Government has failed to turn its attention to this critical aspect of education for more than 20 years now.

So, what Role does Library exactly play in Society?

* A library can be considered a "storehouse of knowledge". In dictionaries the word "library" has been defined as "a building or room containing a collection of books"..

* A library plays a very important role in promoting the progress of knowledge. There are many people who love reading. But they can't afford to buy books because the prices of books are very high. So when one becomes a member of a library, he can borrow valuable books.

* It plays an important role in cataloging information, particularly in regards to the history and culture of society, but they also provide people with free opportunities for learning through books, magazines, newspapers, and multimedia tools..

* A library is very useful for rural youths. If they take to reading they will be able to refrain from evil habits such as loitering and gambling. There are not only books, but also newspapers, magazines, periodicals and government gazette in a library.

* It also plays a vital role in excelling the quality of education by imbibing the users with authentic information by providing according to their needs.

Hypothetic Solution for remedial measure

* Social Leaders, Bureaucrats, Politicians should support the Library movement initiated by Manipur Library Association for their involvement in promotion of library activities all over Manipur.

* Manipur library legislation act 1988 must be activated which are at present defunct due to negligence by the state government. If this act is passed, lots of provisions can be implemented for the upliftment of public library with special assistance from Raja Ram Mohan Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF). This RRRFL was established in 1972 by the department of Culture, Government of India. The main objectives of the foundation are to promote and support public library movement in the country by providing adequate library services, facilities and developing reading habits all over the country.

* Instead of regarding library as an obsolete, State and District council administrators, and Institutional heads' should take the initiative to allocate funds for improved standard, staffing and technology.

Disclosure

Society is not ready to abandon the library, and it probably won't ever be. Libraries can adapt to social and technological changes, but they can't be replaced. After pointing out certain issues pertaining to library condition, there has to be change in the institution and within the society at large. There may be a time when we realize how far behind we are in this world of Information explosion all because of the lack of proper libraries.

Digital era may rule but library and librarians are the most suited professionals to guide scholars and citizens toward a better understanding of how to find valuable information online. Rather than lope blindly through the digital age, guided only by the corporate interests of web economics; society should foster a culture of guides and guideposts.

Today, more than ever, libraries are extremely important for the preservation and improvement of our culture. So, if we want to consider ourselves as well educated, informative, and a developed society at large, library cannot be ignored. One should take bold step for improving the condition of Library in our state starting from district level. So, let us examine ourselves and find out who will be responsible for developing the library or, is the higher authority acting ignorant?


* S Muansangluai Ngaihte wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is an M.Phil Research Scholar (UGC-NET 2012), Delhi University and presently Librarian at Rayburn High
This article was posted on November 29, 2013.


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