Visakhapatnam

School library lies in neglect

An almirach with books at the library, Government Queen Mary's Girls High School in Visakhapatnam .PHOTO: C.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

An almirach with books at the library, Government Queen Mary's Girls High School in Visakhapatnam .PHOTO: C.V. SUBRAHMANYAM  

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A treasure of books at Queen Mary’s Girls High School gathering dust. The school has 52 teachers with 49 women teachers and three men. The library room remained locked as there was no post of librarian.

A booklet titled Telugu Action Songs meant for schoolchildren compiled by Bernard Lucas and published by Addison &Co in 1892; Kautilyarthasastram, a translation of the famous book by renowned scholar Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiah and Akundi Venkata Sastry and published in 1923 in Vizianagaram; Winston Churchill’s The Gathering Storm, the first volume of his autobiographical work in the years prior to World War II – these books are among the many gathering dust in the wooden almirahs. Any attempt to just pick a book might leave a few severed leaves in your hand. Even as another National Library Week concluded on Friday, there has been no effort by the government to look at the treasure trove leave alone protect it.

The century-old Government Queen Mary’s Girls High School has a treasure of books acquired over a long period during its various avatars as nursing school, basic training school to train women teachers and finally the high school. Encyclopaedias of science, literature, on teacher training, some published in London and Lahore before Partition lie unread, uncured and uncared for years together now adorned by a thick layer of dust. A cloth as protective cover hangs over the ad hoc librarian’s chair to shield him from peels falling off the traditional lime-mix roof.

Twenty-seven to 28 almirahs are packed with books. Drawing teacher T. Anil Joshi who took upon himself the task of managing the library by issuing new books provided by the government to children estimates that the number of books could be upwards of 5,000.

The school has 52 teachers with 49 women teachers and three men. The library room remained locked as there was no post of librarian.

Tough task

Salvaging the books in the Queen Mary’s Girls High School library is a tough task. When drawing teacher Anil Joshi first opened an almirah he found about 150 books eaten by termites and crumbled in his hands.

“For two years now, I have been opening the alimarahs, spending money on applying some insecticide to prevent further damage to books,” he says. The books have to be categorised, analysed for their value and utility and finally digitized to preserve them for posterity.

However, the accumulated dust and the condition of the room that is cramped because of the number of almirahs makes taking up any restoration work difficult.

Besides funds and expert help is required to catalogue and protect the books. The library room is hardly conducive to take up any sustained reading.

“We feared opening the almirahs because we do not know how to handle them and are afraid of taking up the task as it might invite criticism,” says a former headmaster.

The school is headed by headmistress of a deputy DEO cadre which is mandatory to draw salaries and issue certificates to students.



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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 5:27:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/school-library-lies-in-neglect/article7905182.ece

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