Eight spacious floors with a dozen exclusive book sections in them, one probably could not ask for more from a centrally-located public library with an aesthetic design. Some of the sections of the Anna Centenary Library may have been a big draw among visitors, but book lovers say much more was expected from the state-of-the-art library.

To start with the collection, the competitive exams guidance section on the ground floor does not have enough books in the genre. Same is the case in the periodical section, where empty racks display the names of magazines and newspaper. “The competitive exams section is comparatively new and books from other sections were brought here. We were told that new books are being procured but I don't think that happened,” says V. Suprajaa, who visits the library to prepare for public service examinations.

The employees say that the subscription of many of these periodicals has not been renewed for quite sometime.

The student community has other grievances. No photocopy machines are available to print study material, especially because the library is yet to begin enrolling members. The restrooms are poorly maintained.

For a library equipped to house a collection of 12 lakh books, the current stock is only about five lakh. While sections devoted to children's books, Tamil books and periodicals are the most widely used, the medical and pure science sections have very little patronage, thereby bringing down their utility value. Regular members to these sections say that the collection of journals was not being added and cataloguing has not been done.

Administratively, too, the library has shortcomings, as no chief librarian or deputy librarian has been appointed. Subject experts who have been part of the library since its inception say if only membership opened the campaign for its preservation – after the government unveiled plans to convert ACL into a children's hospital —would have been stronger. “Today, it is a “glass house” where people are in awe of its look and comfort. Nobody is talking about the resources and services being offered, which is what a library should be about,” says a subject expert.

With no budget being allotted, there are many other problems that ACL would face. The library has so far not established any link for resource sharing with famous foreign institutions such as the British Library in London. And the ACL collection is yet to be digitised to enable it to be linked with any of the national libraries. “All these were in-built problems that are only going to make things worse for the functioning of the library,” says the expert. Today, what makes a library a success is its user-friendly services. “It could be personalised service for scholars, where the staff should be competent enough to suggest titles,” says M.K. Jagadish, former director, American Library.

“Replenishing material should be done on a continuous basis and any library should have a collection of archival material,” he added.

Although various promotion committees were started, the follow-up was poor, say sources. The children's section did conduct a few activities on weekends to draw new readers, but there are no such initiatives now.


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