Kolkata Kolkata

India’s largest library devoid of staff

Neglected lot: The collection of foreign publications has been affected, bringing down the number of readers in the section.

Neglected lot: The collection of foreign publications has been affected, bringing down the number of readers in the section.   | Photo Credit: Ashoke Chakrabarty

National Library’s foreign language section has been without staff for a decade

The foreign language section of the National Library — responsible for the collection of foreign language books and exchange of the same with libraries of other countries — has been without staff for almost a decade.

Library sources say the “complete absence of staff” has not only hit the collection of foreign publications but has also brought down the number of readers in the foreign language section to almost nil.

Arun Kumar Chakraborty, Director-General in charge of the National Library, skirted the issue.

Founded in 1985

The Section was founded in 1985 when the earlier European Languages Division was reorganised and five separate divisions were formed. The divisions are East Asian Languages, Germanic Languages, Romance Languages [from Latin word ‘Romanice’], Slovanic Languages and West Asian and African Languages Division.

Sources told The Hindu that the Romance Languages Division, which has mainly French books, has been without any staff for nearly two decades. The sanctioned staff strength of the division is three. At present, the division has nearly 5,000 books in French and nearly 2,000 in Romanian, along with those in Italian and Spanish.

All the posts at the Slovanic Languages Division, which has a collection mainly in Russian language, have been lying vacant for nearly a decade. The section has a collection of 65,000 books as also journals in 28 languages, including Russian and Polish. The total sanctioned staff for the division is three.

West Asian Division

The West Asian and African Languages Division, which consists of books mainly in Arabic and Persian, has been without staff for a decade.

The collection of this division largely comprises books in Persian (about 12,000) and Arabic (about 12,000).

“The collection includes the lexicons compiled and prepared by Indian authors of the past and edited by the ‘native’ scholars of the College of Fort William and European orientalists of the said college,” says the library website.

The sanctioned staff strength in the division is two.

The East Asian Language Division, which deals with books mainly in Chinese and other East Asian languages, has had no staff for nearly five years. Currently, the division has 15,000 books in Chinese and 1,000 each in Nepali, Thai, Japanese and Korean. The sanctioned staff strength for the division is three.

The Germanic Languages Division of the Library has books mainly in German, along with Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish. It has been devoid of any staff for nearly six years.

The sanctioned number of staff at the division is three.

Yet to find qualified staff

Mr. Chakraborty said, “I cannot comment on the matter without seeing official records.” However, he admitted that the authorities were struggling to “find qualified staff” for the Foreign Language Section. “We have even tried to take interns but nothing has materialised so far,” he said.

Santanu Bhowmick, secretary of the National Library Employees’ Association, however, criticised both the library authorities as well as the Centre for being “aloof to the issue”, and said that “this is undermining the constitutional importance of the library”.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 9:54:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/indias-largest-library-devoid-of-staff/article17413752.ece

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