It’s an established fact that the libraries have played the decisive role in the rise or the decline of the nations. History will tells that the first things the invaders did after conquering an enemy land was to demolish all the libraries there so that the local inhabitants could be condemned to the dark ages.
Nowadays, we, as a society are committing the same crime by letting our books die without being read. We need to question ourselves why have we stopped producing inspirational authors and poets. Why have we abandoned the habits of book reading? If we ourselves don’t do Justice with our cultural heritage buried and deteriorating in our libraries, how can we expect our children to be passionate about reading books? Nearly every one of us in the Gobo. Or in the society at large is well versed with the academic side of the profession of librarianship.
Yet our Governments as well as the society are constantly overlooking the pivotal role that the libraries and librarians are in a position to play n leading the turnaround for changed the destiny of the nation. I strongly feel that an integrated approach is needed and all the stakeholders have to fulfill their responsibilities for bringing about a change. The fact – People of Pakistan want to read: Trust me! People of Pakistan still desire to read. I can prove that they still have the passion for reading. The majority of our people realize that they can move forward by acquiring education and knowledge.
But unfortunately we don’t have the infrastructure to fuel the passion for reading of our people. We need to create acclivities that could help them in unfolding the talents and skills of our very large population who don’t have the access to the books they would like to read. In Pakistan, there is a bustling middle-class population who are engaged in bringing about a quiet revolution for their families. They work overtime to meet the high costs of living and they leave no stone unturned in acquiring education that they know is absolutely essential to their progress.
They have the burning desire to succeed in life. They are eager to move forward and be counted. But the recession having hit the hole world of late and the growing uncertainty of the law and order in the country, life has started to test the already tested people even more. The decline of the library culture in Karachi in particular, the most resourceful of all cities, is an eye- opener. There has been a demand from time to time for increasing the number of public libraries in the city besides improving the facilities in the existing libraries.
A few responsible communities and some motivated individuals have tried to make things happen but the intensity has not been strong enough to bring about a change yet. Contrary to the popular belief, the Internet NAS in tact helped in promoting reading culture rather than having harmed it in anyway. The Internet users are prompted to ‘read’ the contents that enhancing their hunger for more reading material. Page 1 of 8 By searching the Internet user can easily access the books of his choice. Now he or she has the freedom of ordering for the books online, provided they do have the meaner to buy them.
We should not lose sight of the fact that the books are becoming more expensive and the cost of living keeps rising literally every day. It’s becoming ext to impossible for even the middle-class population to save anything for the rainy day. The large turnouts at the various book fairs that are organized from time to time very clearly indicates that the people of the city haven’t lost any passion for reading yet. The inflation has certainly compelled them to curtail expenditure on leisure books but they remain on the lookout for deals that are well within their reach.
The very few libraries that are functioning at the moment are found overcrowded more often than not. They very loudly pass the message that we need greater number of braises to facilitate the people. So many people avail the facilities in the reading rooms that are not properly maintained either. There is no dearth of library-goers in any city or town of our country. People desire to read more and more with their available meaner. Those who cannot afford to buy books make a lot of effort to visit libraries to read them. It’s a sign off lively nation.
There is no doubt in one’s mind that the inhabitants of Pakistan whose majority continue to work very hard to make their ends meet are indeed interested in reading books. To say that the books have come a thing of the past with the availability other sources of recreation and entertainment is far from truth. Cause of the Case: As the luck would have it, the generally ladybird attitude of the library professionals and the reluctance of the successive governments to immobile their resources to create library culture in the society have denied the people the opportunity of sharpening their mental skills.
While the developed and even some of the under- developed countries have invested heavily in this direction but for reasons best known to the concerned authorities this remains an area totally overlooked in Pakistan. The country has been lagging far too behind in having a chain of public libraries to cater to the needs of its growing population. Most alarmingly the number of libraries has shown a marked decline over the years and the majority of the established libraries have failed to keep pace with the changing times.
Unfortunately the professional bodies of librarians have remained dormant more often than not in the past and they have hardly been in a position to raise a voice. In fact, rather alarmingly, they have not been good enough even to make a noise. The past cannot be changed. Whatever has happened is now history. We can learn from our mistakes while looking forward. Instead of finding faults in others or blaming anyone let us think of the future. That’s the best way of erasing the bitter memories of the past.
The Way Forward: Lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness Strenuous efforts at all levels are required to return the due prestige to libraries and librarians in Pakistan and to reconstruct a library culture for our nation. The development of library culture in the country will have multiple benefits, a few of which are mentioned here: It would allow the masses looking for information for their upward root n in the society, to get access to the books they are unable to purchase due to high prices. The knowledge of people in general would be enhanced. Ђ The literacy rate will rise that would help in poverty alleviation. The youngsters, in their spare time, would be turning to books and computers. The engagement of youth in library activities would prompt them in becoming Page 2 of 8 more career-oriented and focused towards studies. The people of all ages will get an opportunity of improving their skills. The students and professionals will be able consult the latest books that they may not eave been to able to access in their educational institutions or their organizations where they are working. Ђ The elderly people will get an opportunity of spending time, away from home, in leisurely atmosphere instead of feeling left out in their lonely rooms. The women folks, who find commuting a major issue, will get an easy access to the information of their choice. The children will be encouraged to develop reading habits. The local authors and writers will get a new lease of life. The local publishing and booksellers industry will be booming. The library refashions will be in greater demand.
The Role of Federal Government: The National Library The role of the federal government should not be limited to Just maintaining the National Library of Pakistan for issuing the International Standard Book Number (ISBN). They have to adopt a policy that encourages the development of the library culture rather than sitting idle or engaging in counter-productive activities. The federal government should expand the role of the National Library. It should be the hub of library activities.
Its building should be re-designed in such a way that the stint architecture should do the talking itself as an icon of national identity. People all over the country should be aware of the standout structure of National Library. The National Library should have the largest collection of books and magazines published in the country. It should be made a point to acquire copies of every book and magazine published in the country. The National Library should have complete record/data of all the libraries in the country and they should keep updating it every year.
They should bring out publications that are of interest to the library refashions in particular and the library users in general. They can print the list of books published every year in Pakistan with some description on them as well. The National Book Foundation (N.B.) The National Book Foundation (N.B.), another state-controlled organ, should conduct itself professionally instead of becoming another liability for the government. The bye-laws of the N.B. should be revised and made people-friendly. Its working should be transparent.
The genuine authors of the country should be encouraged and they should be compensated adequately instead of torturing them by holding back their aments. The N.B. can be used effectively as a platform for promoting literary activities. They should be holding regular programmer to encourage writers and authors. They should make a policy to purchasing a large number to copies to books that are published locally. They should do aggressive marketing for increasing the enrollment in their Readers Club.
The majority of the people in the country are presently unaware about their schemes that allow purchase of books at hugely discounted prices. Role of Provincial Government: The provincial government should allocate substantial if not monumental funds for he development and maintenance of libraries in their budget every year. They should realize its Page 3 of 8 importance and should not treat it as a mere formality. There should be a prominent library complex in every provincial headquarter and its design should synchronize with the National Library of Pakistan in Islamabad.
The Provincial Library should be in the exclusive domain of the provincial government. Since the provincial governments have been running libraries in some of their major towns and cities, they should make it a point to make all of them user-friendly. If the rabbinical government has financial constraints they should hand over the library to the local government instead of Just keeping it on paper. The provincial governments when they are authorized to collect taxes from the people should fulfill their responsibility of maintaining the libraries in their control.
There could hardly be better utilization of the taxpayers’ money than to provide them a state-of-the-art library. These appointments library staff should be made strictly on merit because the trained and motivated library professionals can make a telling difference in public libraries. The authority responsible for overseeing the libraries in the province, whether it’s the department of culture or the department of education, should monitor the performance or non-performance of the libraries under their control.
They should take immediate remedial steps to ensure that the people don’t lose interest in visiting the libraries. Role of Local Government: The local government has an obligation towards its people. The local leadership has been blessed with the resources. They need to have people in their ranks possessing the expertise and the technical knowledge. If they show the willingness to take up the initiative and work with the desired missionary zeal things could change for the better. The library development could be carried out in accordance with the devolution plan under the auspices of the City District Government.
Union Councils could be assigned the task of developing at least one library in their area although there is a demand for much more in view of the people’s interest in reading. The Town Administration could be handed over the responsibility of building a model library in their area of Jurisdiction. The Town Library should be built at a prominent place with greater facilities than a Union Council Library. The landmark project could be the City Library that should be managed by the City Government itself.
The City Library should be a standout structure that could attract the foreigners as well. The presence of around 200 public libraries in Karachi will certainly bring about a very positive change. Role of Library Professionals: The library professionals, while seeking greater knowledge from the various sources, have the responsibility of passing it on to the masses. They are the people who hold the key to spreading the knowledge. They are the ones who know the pulse of the people who are hungry for knowledge.
On their part, the library professionals should nave more unity in their ranks They would indeed become more organized and motivated if they are extended the desired support by the concerned quarters. The experience has shown that more politics and ego come into play when there’s not much activity around. When the library professionals will have targets to meet and beat, they will be more focused on the Job in their hands rather than thinking in any other direction. It’s essential that they keep meeting regularly for brainstorming sessions and more importantly they need to function as professionally as those irking in the developed countries.
Page 4 of 8 The Pakistan Library Association (PLAN), that has been the umbrella organization for the library professionals, needs to incorporate changes in its constitution to keep pace with the changing times. A single entity like the PLAN, having its presence in the provincial capitals, might have been enough in the days when only a handful of libraries existed in this part of the world but a lot has changed since then and it’s in their own interest to think broadly and formulate policies that serve the interest of the professionals in their field.
The PLAN could still retain the status of being the parental organization but they need to have affiliated bodies like the Pakistan School Libraries Association, Pakistan College Libraries Association, Pakistan University Libraries Association, Pakistan Public Libraries Association and Pakistan Special Libraries Association. The model constitution be drafted by the PLAN and it should be followed by all the affiliated national associations. All the national associations should have provincial bodies should be titled after the name of the province.
It’s advisable to have Punjab Library Association instead of PLAN Punjab. The formation of new national and provincial bodies will be having multiple benefits. It’s the age of specialization so let us have the schools librarians run their own association and the college librarians do the business of their association. They would be well versed with the problems and the opportunities in their respective fields. Let them work for the benefit of the profession. Many outstanding leaders will emerge with bright new ideas and they will have the platform to unfold their qualities.
The creation of so many new associations will take the pressure off the PLAN Headquarters who would be able to concentrate on formulating the policies. Role of Social Sector: There are so many non-governmental organizations (Nags) working actively throughout the country. They are likely to support the projects aimed at enhancing the literacy rate. Quite a few of them could be interested in participating in the ventures related to the library culture. The representatives of the active Nags should establish liaison with the functionaries of the professional bodies of the librarians.
The Nags would be better off carrying out their own surveys before the compilation of their reports. They should assess themselves how much could they nutrient in Rotary International, one of the top social service organizations of the world, have already formed a National Library Promotion Committee in Pakistan and they have developed a strategic plan to set up a few libraries besides helping out the public libraries with the donation of books from their members. Other resourceful social service organizations should take the cue from Rotary International and they should include the promotion of library culture in their list of priorities.
This is one area where a lot needs to be done. Therefore the like-minded Nags can Join hands n working out a strategy to taste-track their plans. Role to Corporate Sector: The attention of the multinational corporations as well as the financial institutions should be drawn towards the development of the library culture in the country. They have enormous funds at their disposal and they are eager to spend them for the welfare of the people. The support of the multinationals and giant national companies should be sought to develop new libraries although they might also be interested in the improvement of the existing facilities.
The companies are quite likely to extend support to the libraries through their CARS programmer. The library associations at all levels should stay in touch with the Public Affairs department, which nearly every major company must be Page 5 of 8 having. The companies should be communicated about the activities of the library bodies, The companies also allocate a portion of its budget for sponsorship of community service programmer or even social events. The library associations could approach the companies with their proposals for sponsorships and there’s every possibility of them getting the results.
Role of Donor Agencies: Quite a few international major donors have their presence in Pakistan and they main on the lookout for supporting the noble cause. The donor agencies should be approached for the major infrastructure projects and they are quite likely to extend their support to the development of library culture in the country. The donor agencies encourage the projects aimed at increasing the literacy rate and bringing relief to the masses. They are extremely likely to realize the fact that the promotion of libraries will indeed have multiple benefits.
The library bodies, dealing with them, must keep in mind that the donor agencies solicit their support generally to those organizations whose working is absolutely transparent and they are managed professionally. Role of Philanthropists: There are so many individuals in our society who continue donating generously to the projects meant for public service. Many of them do it silently whereas there are a few people who don’t mind disclosing their names because they feel that their act would serve the purpose of inspiring others to donate as well.
It’s very heartening indeed to note that a good number of people, having been blessed by the Nature, consider it their duty to serve the humanity. The spirit of giving, whether in cash or kind, needs to be admired and followed. The philanthropists are quite actively supporting the cause of education in the society. They can also be requested to divert some of their resources I the development of the library culture. There’s a famous saying that you won’t get if you don’t ask. Therefore it becomes the responsibility of the library bodies to stay networked with the philanthropists and approach them for support for the public service projects.
The philanthropists, on their part, should realize that they would be serving the cause of the community by articulating in the library-related projects. Role of Educational Institutions: The educational institutions have to play a pivotal role in the development of library culture. The moment a child enters the school, he has to be motivated towards reading. The kids have to be taught the virtues of reading and it’s the responsibility of the school to have the desired facilities. The educational institutions in the private sector have a greater role to play.
Since they have adequate funds at their disposal they should consider it their duty to establish proper libraries at each of their The libraries should d be tastefully decorated and the young kids in campuses particular should get attracted to them. Creation of the library facilities is one thing. The other more important thing is to utilize the library. There should be a period every day where the class visits the library with a teacher. The students should be encouraged to acquire books for reading at home. This will allow them to become with the system of library at quite an early age.
The government schools may have financial constraints but they should also make efforts to have a library in their remises. They should convert one of the initialized classroom into a library and one of the teachers be posted there if a qualified librarian is not on its payroll. They can approach the social welfare organizations and philanthropists for supporting their library. The colleges and universities should have properly developed libraries where the daily newspapers and the magazine’s should Page 6 of 8 also be available besides the academic and general books.
The latest books on all the subjects being taught there must be acquired for the convenience of their students. Role of Media: The media can play the most effective role in creating awareness. Both the electronic as well as the print media have a responsibility towards the society of promoting the healthy activities. They should organize inter-active literary and books-related programmer on a regular basis that should be telecast and broadcast besides getting the coverage in newspapers and magazines.
The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (PANS), the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (ABA) and the Council of Newspaper Editors in Pakistan (COPE) should be taken on board in promoting the readership culture. They should be motivated to adopt a proactive approach in this regard. The PANS can boost the readership culture immensely if its member newspapers and periodicals agree to publish the advertisements of books at the discounted rates that they offer to the government.
The newspapers and periodicals should be urged to give prominent coverage to the literary events, particularly the book launch ceremonies and the book fairs that are held from time to time. They should also be persuaded to increase their number of pages for book reviews because the general public would be more interested in books they are familiar around. The newspapers could be requested to reserve a section of the city page for the events held for the promotion of reading habits. Special supplements should be brought out on the World Books Day.
The websites and portals, who are gaining in importance with every passing day, should also be encouraged to publish the articles and features on book reading besides covering the literary events. Role of Intellectuals: The intellectuals who generally have a following in the masses should be urged to devote some of their energies in the promotion of reading culture. They are the columnists whose views carry enormous weight. Who could know better the virtues of reading than these eminent scholars who have the power to influence the opinion of the masses? They Just need to share their experiences on his subject a bit more frequently.
They are the pillars on whom the foundation of the society rests. They are the personalities whom people like to emulate. They are the source of inspiration to the millions of people. If they take up the responsibility of explaining to the people the virtues to reading things would improve dramatically. Knowing the pulse to the nation, nobody can have more appropriate words or style to convey the message cross than the intellectuals of our country. On their part they should highlight the role of the libraries and point out the shortcomings in this regard for the corrective measures to be taken by the concerned agencies.
Role of Publishers: The publishers would be more than glad to be able to promote the reading culture. The publishing companies keep on holding various programmer like book fairs from time to time where they offer their products at discounted rates. The large turnouts in the book fairs very clearly indicate that there is no dearth of knowledge-seekers in he society but those having the passion for reading are often discouraged by the high price of the quality books. The cost of local books can be brought down if there is greater demand and more copies are printed.
The newly published books in particular should be advertised frequently in newspapers, after negotiating rates with the PANS. More copies of the book will be sold if the publishers get the opportunity of having their advertisements printed at the government rates. Page 7 of 8 The publishers should encourage the local authors and they should also support the arioso programmer organized by the library bodies. They should think terms of founding a book club of their own in order to provide attractive discount to their regular customers.
Role of Booksellers: The booksellers also have a significant role to play in the promotion of the library culture. They should organize more and more book fairs in which they could offer the people the best possible rates for the books of their choice. Besides the individual booksellers, their groups should Join hands in holding book fairs at a bigger scale. The international book fairs in Karachi and Lahore witnessed massive gatherings roving the point loud and clear that the people were looking for quality books. Role of Authors: The life for the authors in Pakistan is generally tough.
The rewards from royalty of books are peanuts if compared to what the authors receive in the developed countries. Not many publishers here are resourceful enough to take chances on new faces. They mostly prefer known figures or the published authors for the commercial reasons. The talent and upcoming authors should not lose heart even if their work is not approved by the publishers. They should try the option of self-publishing. They household take the initiative if they are convinced that their manuscript merits publication in book form.
The authors should take pride in their work and they should have liaison with the media in particular that has the power to make them recognized. Role of Library-users: Last but not the least the library-users also have a key role in the development of the reading culture. They should make it a point to interact with the librarians and write something in the suggestion that’s generally available at the counter. They should mention which books they would like to read or what subjects should have more umber of books in the library.
They should point out if they are not satisfied with the services in the library and what could be done to make an improvement. The feedback from the users will help the management of the library in carrying out improvements in light to the wishes to the people. Conclusion: Even a Journey of 10,000 miles begins with the first step. We can still accomplish our cherished goals if our intention is right and the execution as perfect as possible. It’s all about the question of the mindset. We should be convinced in our minds that there is no point in thinking over it whether to do it or it.
There is no option now. We have to do it for our own sake and for the future generations. We have to meet the challenge with single-mindedness. We need greater self-belief and stronger will power. We need to have the conviction that indeed we can do it. All the stake- holders should be taken on board and a few brain-storming sessions should be held to work out the strategic plan. The roles should be defined and a broad-based high- powered committee be formed to set the ball rolling. * Seed Khalid’s Manhood is a graduate in civil engineering from NED University of Engineering & Technology,
Karachi,. But he has earned greater fame and recognition in the field of media. Now he is acclaimed as a leading international sports and travel writer. He has already authored 10 books on sports.