Library movement and development in Manipur
- Part 3 -

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

The need and importance of library and its role to play in the society was conceived in the mind of Atulchandra since long time while he was studying at Driburgargh and Benarus. He was also very much inspired by the nature of Library Movement launched in Bengal in 1925 by the Bengal Library Association headed by Vishwakavi Rabindranath Tagore as the President of the said Association.

He was even communicated with Rabindranath Tagore through letters on some aspects related to social work, art and culture, development of libraries and schools, etc. The dream of Atulchandra became true with the birth of Manipur Club on April 7, 1927.As its founder, he established the club at Kakwa Nameirakpam Leikai, Imphal to provide library services in a formalized manner mostly to the students and youths of the locality and its adjoining areas.

The said Club was equipped with books and other important documents developed through donation from the public. The books were mostly found written in Bengali, Sanskrit, Hindi, English and Manipuri. There was even provision for borrowing the books by the public for home use. Eventhough, the name was Manipur Club, it was almost characterized with certain features of being a public library. More interestingly, the said Club was renamed as Manipur Club Library on the 1st January, 1931 by adding the term "Library".

Shri Konsam Gulab Singh from Thoubal Melaground, Thoubal was the Librarian-cum-keeper of the Library. After the death of Atulchandra's mother Chonu (Juvabati) in 1932, the name of the library has again been changed to Juvabati Memorial Library on April 19, 1933.With an august gathering the building of the library having three rooms was dedicated to the public to provide free public library service .The library hosted a number of programmes at that time.

The first Manipuri Chief Minister of Manipur Shri M.K. Priyobrata Singh and first Librarian (the post has been designated as Chief Librarian later on) of the State Central Library, Imphal Shri Mayengbam Anandamohon Singh , a renowned educationist and writer of Manipur, Shri R.K. Shitaljit Singh, Army Officers from outside Manipur and many others enthusiastically donated invaluable books to the Library.

The library also developed literature on 2nd World War, Newspapers, Radio, etc and the same were made available to the public. Even tale-tale was introduced in the library. Shri Atulchandra himself read out newspapers and made the public listened to it. The Library, however, got many setbacks through different phases due to many factors.

Today the overall management and functioning of the same is under the control of the Manipur Foundation, Imphal. The Organization uses to observe the 10th September, birth day of Atulchandra as Manipur Library Day since recent past.

6. Pioneering Efforts but a Missing Link

After the establishment of the Manipur Club by Atulchandra in 1927, some commendable pioneering efforts from individuals and general public towards public library movement of the state were also made during 1930-1950. These include the establishment of Imphal Reading Club (1930) at Moirangkhom, Imphal, Library established by Shri M.K. Priyobratta Singh ( First Manipuri Chief Minister of Manipur) at Sagolband near Khaplangba Mandir since 1933, Chitrangada Library (1934) at Imphal, Imphal Public Library (1934) near Uripok Chakrikom, Imphal, Manipur Public Library (1950) at Bir Tikendrajit Road, Imphal. However, almost all these libraries became extinct due to many reasons. This is, in fact, a missing link in the history of the library movement of Manipur.

7. Initiatives of the Government

The initiatives of the Government towards the development of public library in Manipur came a bit late in the state with the establishment of District Library and Children Library -cum -Museum in 1958. It was followed by the establishment of Netaji Memorial Library (1968) at INA Complex, Moirang; upgradation of the District Library to the status of the State Central Library (1970); establishment of district libraries in different districts of the state such as: Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong,and Churachandpur (1974), Chandel(1977), one branch of the State Central Library at Ningthoukhong for Bishnupur District (1991), Thoubal (1997) and Imphal West and Imphal East (2006).

The overall affairs of the public library matters in the state is under the Department of Art and Culture. For the sake of the convenience of Administration, the management of the public libraries in the hill districts of Manipur has been handed over to the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs), though the same is under the Department of Art and Culture of the State.

7.1 Recent Initiatives

Of the recent initiatives of the state government towards development of public libraries can be mentioned about:

i) Establishment of Sub-divisional libraries in respect of a) Jiribam, b) Kangpokpi, c) Moreh. Construction of building for these libraries have already been completed which have started since 2012-13.

ii)Construction of new buildings in respect of district libraries of Churachandpur, Senapati and Thoubal since 2013-14.

iii) Proposal to extend the library building in respect of Chandel, Imphal East and Imphal West districts.

iv) Making Art and Culture Department a major Department under which more provisions have been incorporated for the promotion of public library services.

vi) Approval to recruit library staff to man the libraries soon.

8. Efforts of the Voluntary Organisations

The role of different NGOs, Voluntary Organisations, etc. for the cause of library movement in Manipur cannot be ignored at all. Around such 300 (three hundred) Organisations of the state are organizing libraries with or without assistance from the Government, RRRLF, and other Agencies. They are, as a basic component of the public library system, playing an important role in the movement as well as rendering services to the rural masses at local level. As on now a total of 144 such libraries are recognized as RRRLF beneficiary libraries enjoying facilities like Book, Furniture, etc.

9. Contribution of RRRLF

The Raja Rommohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF), Kolkata has been playing a vital role in the process of development and promotion of library movement in the state, as done in other parts of the country. A separate wing under the name of RRRLF, sponsored by the Department of Culture, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India, was open at the State Central Library, Imphal since 1978.

The state started its participation in various schemes of the Foundation since 1981-82 onwards. The Foundation has rendered financial assistance under its Matching and Non-matching schemes. Under these two schemes, the Foundation has provided assistance towards procurement of Books, Almirahs, T.V. sets; Organization of book fairs, Orientation Training Courses, Construction of building for the libraries run by the NGOs. Etc.

Besides, MALA has been organizing seminars every year under the sponsorship of RRRLF. Previously the State and RRRLF share was in the ratio of 50:50, but now the pattern has been changed to 10:90. As such the role of the Foundation towards development of public library in the state is quiet commendable. The Foundation also provides assistance to the Manipur Library Association (MALA) to organize Seminars, Conferences, Awareness programmes, etc.

To be continued......

* Ch. Ibohal Singh, Ph.D., wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was posted on October 21, 2016.

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