National Library of Pakistan fills the void

ISLAMABAD, Sept 16: Libraries always play an important role in promoting literacy in society. However, unfortunately in Pakistan, libraries have remained a neglected part of the cultural heritage of Pakistan.

The citizens of the capital have to go to the National Library of Pakistan (NLP) to quench their thirst for knowledge.

The Ministry of Education has been claiming that it has enhanced the literacy rate, but they have not bothered to set up needed libraries in the country, said a senior official of the Department of Libraries, which works under the Ministry of Education. The relevant authorities did not bother to set up any public library in the federal capital to provide citizens easy access to information and reading material.

The NLP is a reference and research library, which has a collection of 180,000 books on different topics. The NLP has five floors, each having an air-conditioned hall. The library has 400 seats and it provides Internet service to its users.

The first floor has a periodical section, where 220 newspapers and 1,000 periodicals are daily available to readers. The newspapers and periodicals include regional, national and some international publications like Times, National Geographic and The Economist.

A prominent feature of the library is reference books written in Persian, Urdu and Arabic available on the second floor.

The NLP is also playing the role of a depository library and it has preserved a variety of materials related to Pakistan's history. The NLP administration has reserved its third floor for books, reports and surveys on Pakistan, which include the Economic Surveys of Pakistan, copies of Budgets presented since 1947, books on the heroes of Pakistan and material on the Pakistan movement. The fourth floor of NLP contains English reference books, encyclopaedia, dictionaries and materials about the history of Europe.

Approximately 10,000 rare books and 561 manuscripts, including books that were not reprinted, have been preserved in the NLP. The NLP Readers Services Head Hazif Khubaib Ahmad said, "The manuscripts are kept in lockers and are not opened for the average reader, since they are meant for bona fide scholars doing research." Ahmed said due to importance of the manuscripts, the administration was planning to make them digital to preserve and make them accessible for people using Internet.

The administration was striving to make the available knowledge accessible to all the readers in one form or the other, he said, adding that the library was open for all without any charges. However, for honorary membership, one should have completed 14 years of education, but no extra charges were made, he added. He said the NLP collected material related to Pakistan that was published abroad.

He said, "There are 35,000 volumes of various magazines and newspapers available in the archives of library." The library has allotted the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) to 30,000 books so far, he added.

Ahmed said, "The library receives around 35,000 books at the end of every year, since all the publishers in the country are bound to send their publications to the library under the Copyright Law."

However, another official at the library said that only 40 percent of the publishers sent their publications and the rest of the 60 percent did not comply with the law. He said that the administration sent three reminders to those who violated the law.

Material in all 13 languages used for different writings in Pakistan was available in the library, he said, adding that the administration of the NLP could impose a fine up to Rs 500 on violators through the court of law. "In most cases, however, the administration of the library is reluctant to pursue violators," he said. Ahmad said the received material was sent to the Department of Bibliography, which compiled the matter and sent it to major libraries at the end of every year. He said the NLP had been rendering its advisory services to major libraries across the country since it was set up in 1993. Daily Times



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