Monday, May 5, 2008

City Central Library, Bangalore

On January 31, 2008, I was given a tour of the central library in the south zone of Bangalore, near my uncle's house in the Jayanagar neighbourhood of the city. As I learned, the public libraries in Bangalore are divided into five zones, with this library being the largest in its particular zone. The director of this branch is a Mr. Nagesh - a gentleman originally from Haveri district in northern Karnataka state.

The library has a fairly large entry area, with a place for checking in one's bags and a central reception area. While not a particularly new building, it was clean and had several people milling about and reading books and newspapers. An upstairs area was filled with more people reading - my unscientific estimate was that most of the people patronizing the library were men. The main impression I had of the library, however, was that it was not well-lighted and felt dark in places. The stacks were upstairs and were classified according to Ranganthan's colon classification system. Several students and young people appeared to be studying for exams and doing school work on the desks adjacent to the stacks.

The early part of my visit was spent in the office of Mr. Nagesh - I drank coffee and ate biscuits with him, while he took care of some office work. Sitting in this office gave me the opportunity to observe typical Indian hierarchical office interactions - a number of obsequious workers filed into his office, with some signature or other needed on a piece of paper, which was attached to a ragged file folder. After observing this spectacle for what seemed like a long time, he eventually showed me around the library.

Some interesting points from our conversation and tour:

  • 23 branches exist in the south library zone of Bangalore, as well as 120 slum libraries. What exactly a slum library entails was not clear to me.
  • 1 mobile library exists in the south zone
  • Mr. Nagesh claims that around 300 people per day visit the library. This number should not be difficult to ascertain - most public libraries I have noticed in India (in Bangalore, Chennai, and Delhi, for instance) have a visitor log that each patron must sign upon first entering the library
  • Internet stations exist in the central library of the south zone, and have about 25 users per day, according to Mr. Nagesh. I observed a couple of people using the five or so Internet ready computers in the library during my short visit. Fees to use the Internet are 10 Rs. per hour. When I arrived, the Internet connection was down - the ISP for this library and all public libraries in Bangalore is BSNL, the government-based Internet provider. Outside of the few large public libraries in the city, most public libraries in Bangalore do not have Internet connections.
  • Most libraries, other than the central libraries of each zone, are service stations with limited hours. For instance, I was taken to a smaller branch library in a residential section of Bangalore, which essentially was a converted bungalow. The hours for this branch and for many others like this one are 8:30 to 11:30 AM and 4 to 8 PM.
  • Within this particular central zone library (and it would appear most public libraries in Bangalore) no reference librarians as such work with the public. Most of the staff with actual library degrees (BLS, MLS) do not work extensively with the public and are doing work in the back offices of the library. Library assistants (not necessarily having diplomas or degrees) are doing most of the work with the public.
  • As with many of the libraries I have observed in major Indian cities (e.g., Bangalore and Chennai), colon classification is employed.


ashwin said...

Libraries in chennai are way ahead of what is available in bangalore. This article is a example of how advanced chennai is compared to bangalore:

lohith said...

i luv d library near my home. (vyalikaval). Its a small building with lots of books. All crammed into tiny space. Not crowded. A few visitors. Strong Smell of old paper. Interesting books.

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NVK's Blog said...

This visitor visited the Central Library during 2008 and made comments which does not praise the librARY. I hope now things would have improved a lot.