by Mudasir Farooq Parray
SRINAGAR: In Hajin, a town renowned for its historical significance as a hub of saints, poets, and scholars, the local library, established in 1977, currently operates out of a rented building. Despite its rich heritage, the library faces several challenges, ranging from an insufficient influx of new books to a lack of modern infrastructure. Over the years, governmental neglect has contributed to its state of disrepair.
While libraries elsewhere adapt to the changing times, the Hajin public library appears to be at a standstill. The collection, primarily consisting of ageing and worn-out books, has not seen any additions in recent years. Official records indicate that the last update to the library’s holdings occurred in 2018, with no subsequent additions recorded since then.
The library’s reading materials are limited to two local newspapers – Greater Kashmir and Aftab. Notably absent are national newspapers, which are considered invaluable for individuals aspiring to enter civil services. This absence highlights a library resource gap, limiting access to diverse perspectives and current national affairs. The enduring challenges faced by the library underscore the pressing need for attention and investment to revitalise this vital cultural institution.
Beyond its book collection, the library infrastructure reveals signs of neglect. Nadeem Azad Bhat, an aspirant for the Jammu and Kashmir Services Selection Board (JKSSB), pointed out, “The library lacks essential infrastructure crucial for a modern library experience, demanding urgent attention. The absence of reading spaces, internet facilities, and modern technology hampers the library’s potential in education and community development.”
The library even lacks basic signage. The rented building stands without any board or hoarding, leaving its presence unknown and hindering awareness of its location.
Zafar Farooq Mir, a civil service aspirant, expressed concern, saying, “I travelled five kilometres from my home to the library on Monday, and upon arrival, I found the library closed.”
The lack of resources fails to meet the needs of today’s students. Faced with these conditions, Mir added, “I am left with no choice but to consider migrating to Srinagar.”
These operational and infrastructural deficiencies underscore the pressing need for intervention to restore the library’s functionality and meet the community’s educational requirements.
The absence of electricity in the library hampers technological advancements and modern study methods. In the summer, the lack of fan facilities makes the library uncomfortable, while during the harsh winter, the absence of heating arrangements makes focused study sessions difficult for students.
Mubashir Riyaz, a Physics student, pointed out, “The library’s operational time should be extended, as many students from universities or schools miss out on its benefits due to its current timing, which is from 10 AM to 4 PM.”
Students travelling from the outskirts highlighted the challenges they face in visiting the library. They urged the library administration to introduce online access to books, allowing them to stay connected with valuable resources.
Adding to the concerns, Shabnam Fayaz a student said, “We face a significant issue – the absence of washroom facilities in the library, restricting the time students can spend here.”
She also expressed concern about the deteriorating condition of the seating arrangements. These challenges underscore the need for improvements in infrastructure and services to enhance the accessibility and overall quality of the library.
“Currently, with a total of 423 memberships, approximately 50 members borrow books regularly, while nearly 10 members consistently visit the library for reading purposes,” stated Rayees Ahmad, the library attendant.
In response to students’ concerns, he mentioned, “I forwarded information about the issues related to washroom facilities, electricity, and broadband services a year ago.”
Mir Bashir Ahmad, the head of Civil Society Hajin, emphasised, “Hajin Bandipora is known for its literary activities. The current state of our library is disheartening. We need a library with modern facilities to support our students and scholars.”
When contacted, Mohammad Rafi (JKAS), Director of Libraries and Research Jammu and Kashmir, acknowledged, “It’s not just the library in Hajin; nearly 80 of our libraries are currently housed in private buildings. I will coordinate with the Deputy Director to address the issue of book revision in the library.” He further mentioned, “The land has already been identified for constructing a new library. Once allotted, we will plan and budget for the construction, ensuring it has all the necessary facilities, including reading rooms, washrooms, and overall good infrastructure.”
This proactive step aims to address the existing challenges and enhance the library’s capacity to serve the community effectively.
(Mudasir is an intern with Kashmir Life)