Library movement and development in Manipur
- Part 1 -

Ch. Ibohal Singh *

Library at Manipur University (MU) , Canchipur as seen on October 21 2014
Library at Manipur University (MU) , Canchipur as seen on October 21 2014 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam

1. Background

The birth of library presupposes the existence of written records or of literature whether it is preserved on bark, clay tablet, papyrus, parchment or paper, etc. It is agreed that libraries grew and developed in civilized society when man began to make and keep written records. In the preliterate society, men were dependent on live memory and spoken words and gradually on letters, thereafter began to communicate with each other by means of pictures carved on stones and rocks.

These carvings or inscriptions were found in three forms:
a) Pictographic: that represents an object;
b) Ideographic: that describes the idea suggested by the object; and
c) Phonographic: that represents sound of object or idea.

Historians have agreed that all our systems of writing came from these crude inscriptions and picture writings. The Sumerians were believed to be the first people to develop a widely usable writing system. Samuel, N. Kremer in his work, History begins at Sumer(1965) observed that before the end of the third millennium B.C., the Sumerian men of letters actually wrote down - on clay tablets, prisms, and cylinders. This phonetic system of writing served them as an effective instrument for recording their social, political, and philosophical thinking for maintaining accounts and for preserving their sacred legends, prayers, rituals, etc.

By 2700 B.C. the Sumerians had established private and government libraries for preserving their varied writings for use. The very concept of libraries had been in existence since time immemorial with the very beginning of human civilization. The earliest libraries in a real sense, according to Collier's Encyclopaedia , were the collections of writings maintained for use of the living found in very early civilizations.

Interesting and important examples were in existence in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Palestine, etc. With the passage of time, due to technological changes the concept, nature, mode of organization and management, the nature of delivery of services, etc . have also been changed, because change is the order of the day. The library systems across the world have been playing a crucial role exercising their social, moral and educational responsibility in the process of transformation in all the spheres of this world.

This has been possible due to continuous movement and development took place since last many centuries. Library scientists, for the sake of convenience in the study of library and information systems, have put the types of libraries into three major groups:

a) Academic Library: associated with academic institutions;

b) Special Library: attached with various organizations/institutions of specialized nature; and

c) Public Library: established for the public irrespective of their caste, creed, sex, age, status, religion, community, etc to serve their information needs.

All types of libraries are treated as social organization / institution to serve the complex information needs of the user community, which is their ultimate goal. However, different types of libraries have different objectives, the common of which being to fulfill the objectives of their parent bodies/organizations.

All the countries of the world have their own history of movement and development of library system. When we talk about library movement, it is mainly concerned with the public library. Because the concept of library movement is associated with the people's movement for the cause of the public (masses) as a whole. Academic and special types of libraries are established by their parent bodies which would take the responsibility of the overall affairs of the same. It is not so in case of the public library.

In fact, library is a state subject, as such; the concerned state governments have to take the sole responsibility for the establishment and management of this type of library. But it is a fact that the public library system, due to a number of factors and reasons, had been established and developed with people's support and movement.

There is, of course, on the other hand, people's movement for the promotion of other dimensions and aspects through the support of the public library. For instance, there are efforts made by general public towards promotion of education, culture, democracy, etc. through public library service, etc. The scenario is global. Such aspects are also considered important in the study of library movement of a particular region.

In Indian context, as observed by Kaula (2007), public library movement has been the project of our national awakening like the Swadeshi Movement. It was also the product of our cultural renaissance and the revival of our love for our culture and heritage. Library movement in the country took shape in 1907 when the ruler of the then Baroda State laid foundation for free compulsory elementary education backed by libraries.

For the first time in India, free public library services were introduced as a system in 1907.Then Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda is considered to be the pioneer in the field of library movement in the country. He took keen interest in the movement as he foresaw the need for public library and its role in the education of the masses which would lead to all round development of the society.

The Swadeshi Movement forging the greatness of Indian culture and heritage, led by Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Rajpat Rai, invigorated the movement so greatly that it grew beyond all expectations. It was the time when the nationalist spirit was surging forth with over-spill of enthusiasm, when Dr. Annie Basant's Home Rule Movement met with repression by foreign British Government, that the Indian Library Movement was conceived.

The movement took concrete shape in 1919 and set itself on the path of enlightening the people throughout the length and breadth of the country. In India National Library Week is celebrated every year during 14-20 November. The 14th November is a remarkable day in the history of Indian Library Movement. That was on this day of 1919 the first all India public library conference was inaugurated at Gokhale Hall in Chennai, then Madras, which was presided over by I.S. Khudelkar, the then Director of Libraries, Baroda.

It was a milestone, in fact, in the history of library movement of the country. As a token of significance of the event, the Indian Library Association (ILA) announced to observe NLW during a week starting from 14th November 1968 onwards for which a circular was issued by J.C. Mehta, the then Acting Secretary of the Association.

Erstwhile sovereign kingdom, Manipur, a tiny state of independent India, having her long history of more than two millennia, has also a unique historical background of movement and development of library, as far as the public library system is concerned. The involvement of the philanthropists, social reformers, social workers, library lovers, intellectuals, educationists, etc. as done in the rest of the world, is found towards library movement in this very part of the country.

On the other hand, government also takes into account public library service as an important matter in the state. Also there are different agencies, both government and private, working for the cause of the library movement and development in the state. With this background, the present study has been taken up with an attempt to understand the movement and development of library in Manipur.

Pioneering tasks of social reformers, philanthropists, social workers, educationists, associations like Manipur Library Associations (MALA), promotional influence of the Department of Library and Information Science, Manipur University, efforts of the state government, contributions of RRRLF, role of the voluntary organizations, efforts of READ India, and in the later part the emergence of Community Library with the initiative of NSS Cell, Manipur University, legislative support for the library development, etc. are being taken into consideration in this attempt.

To be continued......

* Ch. Ibohal Singh, Ph.D., wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was posted on October 13, 2016.

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