Corporation had roped in KBMS, which is under the Cultural Department, for distributing books worth about Rs. 5 lakh to 30-odd libraries within its jurisdiction

The Kochi Corporation’s decision to entrust the Kerala Book Marketing Society (KBMS) with the distribution of books to recognised libraries within its limits for the second consecutive year has infuriated majority of libraries that were dissatisfied with the arrangement in the previous year.

The Kerala State Library Council’s Nethrusamithi for libraries in the Corporation limit had written to the local body alleging that KBMS failed to supply the titles required by libraries during last year and that many of the billed books were yet to be supplied.

A meeting convened by the Corporation on Wednesday following protest by libraries finalised the matter in favour of KBMS. “We have reluctantly accepted the decision on the condition that KBMS will supply the latest titles of all major publishers demanded by the libraries. The list will be handed over on Monday,” D.R. Rajesh, the convener of Nethrusamithi, said.

The corporation had roped in KBMS, which is under the Cultural Department, for distributing books worth about Rs. 5 lakh to 30-odd libraries within its jurisdiction following a government order directing local bodies to give preference to the society in the supply of books purchased using their funds.

Libraries initially didn’t protest the intervention of the agency replacing the close to two-decade-old system of dividing the grant component among the publishers, facilitating direct procurement from them. Libraries went with the decision after they were promised that KBMS would make available about 10,000 titles of all major publishers. But they failed to honour that promise as libraries found majority of the titles made available at a book fest organised for the libraries were useless or unwanted,” Mr. Rajesh said.

K.N. Lenin, the joint convener of Nethrusamithi, said libraries were forced to take the available titles to avoid the lapse of funds. Libraries were receiving about 35 per cent discount while purchasing directly from the publishers, which helped them buy more books than the allotted funds. “Besides, the government order cited for routing the supply through KBMS was just for a year,” he said.

KBMS officials said the order was renewed on November 5 last year. They claimed that titles of all major publishers, both local and international, available in the market were offered at the book fest. Nothing could be done if a list of unavailable titles was given intentionally to show KBMS in poor light, the officials said. Those raising the allegations against the agency were trying to protect the interests of publishers, the KBMS officials said.

T. Jayachandran, the secretary of All Kerala Publishers and Booksellers Association, said political considerations were at the root of replacing a well-established system.

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