Public libraries play a crucial role in development of any society, as they provide an easy platform for informal education and facilities of learning and a possible digital access to vast amount of information at the doorstep. Modern, extensive public libraries, rural and urban, are essential for any kind of development in a world of information explosion. Walter Cronkite has aptly said “Whatever the cost of public library, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”
Recently in August 15th, 2015, Govt. of Kerala State has declared it to be the first digital state in India with 100% mobile penetration and broadband Internet connectivity at Panchayat level, drawing strength from its excellent Public Library System.
Historically the library movement was an indispensable necessity to the people and became part of Independence Movement. It received impetus due to enactment of library legislation in different States starting with Madras (Tamil Nadu) Public Libraries Act in 1948 after India’s independence. In Odisha the Act was passed in 2001 but it is not enough without Library Rules notification.
In a 2007 workshop at Prafulla Pathagar, Jagatsinghpur, Orissa (of which Parasana Dash is an Advisor), the Minister of Culture, Govt. of Orissa promised that the Library Rule for Orissa would be enacted shortly. (This was repeated recently at Library Symposium during July-2015 OSA convention attended by the State’s Culture and Education ministers.) Yet, unfortunately neither Rules notification or implementation is in sight.
Understanding the significance, SEEDS, through its members like Darshan Patra and Nishikant Sahoo et al, has created a fund to raise public consciousness and build low-cost model library in Odisha.
Phailin super cyclone devastated swathes of Odisha in 2013. A small team of individuals, a majority of whom were SEEDS members or volunteers, worked with OSA to repurpose and reuse the funds that were collected through OSA for the Phailin super cyclone and already deposited to Odisha CM’s Relief Fund pool without a purposeful, tracked utilization.
Since then the team has created two conceptual models: Model Urban Library and Model Rural Library. It has also created an infrastructure and budget guideline, and a “Library User Guide”. The team has worked with a number of officials at state, district and town levels, civil society members, librarians, library visitors and well-wishers. It has also sent representations to Odisha ministers and secretaries following a Symposium conducted at 2015 OSA Convention. A few hard-fought gains have been made on the ground but much still remains to be done and scaled up.
At present, the team is arranging an Open Forum on public library on Dec 21 in Odisha, with OSA’s support and with the help of other library activists such as Mr. Prasana Dash from Prafulla Pathagar and Sujit Mohapatra from Bakula Library.
With our small funds for the public library initiative within SEEDS itself, we would like to focus on the rural library model. To help in searching for a target model rural library, Darshan Patra has programmed a Google Form questionnaire (many thanks to Prasana Dash for his questions). He is asking anyone to visit that survey and get appropriate community activists (with any land/library infrastructure) to fill out the questionnaire for our consideration. I also ask your active donation and participation in this effort. We can also strengthen our rural, or urban, public library model with a smart, cost-effective deployment of “Khan Academy without Internet” concept.