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Story in numbers: The 'poor' state of public libraries in India

There is one rural library for every 11,500 people, and one urban library for over 80,000 people

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Story in numbers: The 'poor' state of public libraries in India

The first public libraries Act, the Madras Public Act, was passed in 1948. Its goal was to introduce legal provisions for offering public services, for the public and funded by the public

India’s public movement, which was pioneered by the likes of Maharaja Sayajirao III Gaekwad of Baroda, American library administrator William Alanson Borden, and mathematician and librarian S R Ranganathan, began in the late 19th century. The movement was part of pre-Independence social movements for literacy development that took place in several states, such as Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

After Independence, there have been a few government initiatives for public libraries, such as the Mission on Public Libraries for improving school library services as part of five-year plans for education and assistance, and provision of grants by the Raja Rammohan Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF) for library programmes aimed at training and development. A few public libraries in villages and talukas have also been given financial aid in the construction of buildings and upkeep of facilities. However, these programmes have been ad-hoc and not administered with concerted efforts by the ministry of culture.

Story in numbers: The 'poor' state of public libraries in India
There were 70,817 libraries in rural areas and 4,580 in urban areas serving a population of more than 830 million and 370 million, respectively, according to the 2011 census where libraries were notified for the first time. These numbers roughly translate to one rural library for every 11,500 people, and one urban library for over 80,000 people.

However, there is no precise information on the functionality and level of service capabilities of these libraries—the rural libraries could be a room with a few books, while others could be running through the support of private donors or NGOs.


First Published: Sun, June 30 2019. 21:42 IST
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