Karachi's libraries: a squandered inheritance
Karachi, June(Daily Times): Without reading books, the new generation is treading an impoverished and
unenlightened path. The need to read has almost entirely disappeared with the
electronic media and Internet being widely used. There are several large and
richly stocked libraries in the city, but hardly any who know of them or are
willing to visit.
Among the city's largest libraries are the Karachi
Theosophical Library, Liaquat Memorial Library, Khaliq Dinnah Hall, Ghalib
Library and Tehmuriah Library. All of them hold a large, international
collection of books.
The Theosophical library is one of the oldest
librairies in Karachi and dates back to before partition. It holds 14,000 books,
most of which are from abroad. It has 1000 members, of which 250 are regular
visitors. The library was built in 1815, and most books are from abroad. The
American Consulate gifted an additional 300 books to the library.
rare collection of books found in this library cannot be found in any other,"
said Assitant Librarian Syed Musarrat Ali. She also said that the number of
visitors have decreased by 60 percent. After computers became common, most
library environments have suffered. "The knowledge one gets by using the
Internet cannot compare with what a library environment has to offer. The
computer only gives the page one searches for, and the knowledge one gets is
limited," she said. "With the advent of private TV channels and cyber cafés, the
number of people who came to the library to read newspapers to read newspapers
has dropped by 82-85 percent," she said.
Liaquat Memorial library is a
large library that holds about 40,000 books. Here too, the atmosphere is
deserted and books collect dust on the shelves.
In Khaliq-Dinnah Hall
library there are over 30,000 books. Attendance statistics for the library are
not available, but the amount on dust on the books is telling. As hardly anyone
visits, the staff go home before their shift finishes and no one is present to
wind-up tables scattered with newspapers at the end of the day.
library in Nazimabad has over 37,000 books. The librarian Najia said that she
has worked there for three years. When she took her job, there was a substantial
number of visitors. However, the number has diminished to ten percent of what it
was three years ago.
There is a rich collection of literature books,
including several reference books used by M.A students. Naseem Ahmed has been
working at Ghalib Library since 1973. "The founders of the library are Mirza
Zafarul Hasan and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. It was Mirza Zafarul Hasan's dying wish that
I never leave the library," she said. "Pakistan's renowned writers always visit
this library. When I joined in 1973 the library seemed to be short of space. But
now, hardly 4 or 5 people come to all day," she said.
in Nazimabad is popular with college students who come to study and use
reference books. There is also a medical research centre upstairs. There are
over 20,000 books in the library including poetry, literature and text
Frequent library visitors include Babul Lal, an avid reader who is
a cook at a local hotel. He says that going to read at the library daily has
been part of his routine for the last 15 years. "Reading books increases one's
general knowledge. Although information can be found on a computer, not everyone
knows how to use one," he pointed out. "Computers do not create an environment
for discussion. In the library environment one can engage with other readers.
Here, one gets lost in words," he said
Anjum, from Buffer Zone, has been
visiting Ghalib Library to study for the last 10 years. "I don't have a
computer. And anyway, one needs electricity to use a computer. Books can be a
person's best friends," she said.
Nauzat, a BCom final student said that
she just became a member of a library. "Before, I used to use the Internet. But
I really enjoy the library environment. It truly is a place where one can
learn," she said.
"Computers and TV channels encourage students to waste
their time watching movies, chatting, and surfing the web. People should begin
to look to libraries as places where they can spend their free time. However,
the role of electronic media in libraries cannot be ignored," said the library
management staff said Sunday.
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