Daily The Business

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All govts fail to regulate a broad public library system

By  K A Mian

LAHORE: All the governments have failed to establish, maintain and develop a comprehensive public library system in the province of the Punjab for the last three decades. They even neglected the formation of rules, formulation of policies and implementation of Library Act and handover of administrative control of libraries to the Punjab Library Foundation (PLF) since its inception.

Around 176 libraries established at public sector across the province out of which only 80 libraries are partially functional, whereas most of them are being run down by non-professional and non-designated officials, Daily The Business has learnt.

The PLF had been established in 1985 as an autonomous body under the Punjab Educational Training Institutions Ordinance, 1960. Its main functions were to operate the library by providing books, equipment, and other assistance according to the international standards, frame policies for the developments and promotion of the libraries, arrange preservation of the rare published material and manuscripts. In addition to these functions, they had to prepare bibliographies on various subjects, capacity building of librarians and other staff.

According to a research study ‘A survey of Public Libraries in Punjab’ conducted in 2012-13, under the joint venture of Punjab Library Foundation, Lahore and the Department of Library and Information Science, Punjab University Lahore. The survey revealed that a total of 176 libraries exist in all 36 districts of Punjab, one each in Attock and Mianwali, two each in Sahiwal and Sheikhupura, three each in Faisalabad, Muzaffargarh, Nankana Sahib, Rajanpur, Mandi Bahauddin ,Vehari, Jhelum, Khushab, Chakwal and Lodhran, four each in Gujranwala, Kasur, Chiniot, Pakpattan, Rahim Yar Khan, and Layyah,  five each in Multan, Bahawalpur, Narowal, Khanewal, Gujrat and Dera Ghazi Khan and six each in Hafizabad, Okara, Sialkot and Bhakkar, eight in Sargodha, 10 each in Bahawalnagar and Lahore, 11 each in Rawalpindi and Jhang  and 12 in Toba-Tek-Singh.

The data further shows that libraries are now in very poor condition such as absence of professional staff, outdated collection, tattered library buildings, insufficient and irregular budget, low membership, poor IT infrastructure, lack of interest by different stakeholders and absence of proper administrative control.

The data also explored that about the administrative control of the existing libraries of which 73 (41.5 percent) libraries are under TMA (Tehsil Municipal Administration), 36 (20.5pc) libraries under the district government control, 24 (13.6pc) libraries run by welfare organisations followed by 12 (6.8pc) by the Department of Education while the remaining 31 (17.6pc) libraries were working under personal control, Directorate of Public Libraries, Board of Governors and Union Administration. There are only two libraries in the category of any other, one is under Department of Auqaf and second is under the administrative control of Punjab Horticultural Authority.

Moreover, the data also reveals that the public sector libraries are being run by a number of professionals out of which some 137 (77.8 pc) libraries were without Library and Information Science (LIS) professional and the remaining 22 pc had professionals ranged from one to more than five, whereas 27 (15.3 pc) libraries had one professional having masters in LIS followed by nine (5.1pc) libraries with two to five professionals, while only three (1.8pc) libraries had more than five professionals.  “There is no institution responsible for the improvement and maintenance of public libraries.

“These libraries are in poor condition and 22 pc are closed. Even the functional libraries hardly come under the definition of a ‘library’ only with few exceptions. A small room with small collection and a peon with no budget and no services is called library in many Tehsils under the building of Tehsil Municipal Administration and these could be called newspaper reading room instead of public library”.

Adding salt to injuries, the administrative control was handed over to the Punjab Sports Department by PMLN govt for up-gradation of all e-libraries and its digitalize systems on wish of former VC Punjab Information and Technology, Dr Umer Saif, the sources vowed. The sources further claimed that the main reason to change the control and conversion of these libraries into digitalized system for gaining giant kicks back from its procurements from advance equipment and computer accessories. The matter is already under the investigation in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). All the digitalized e-libraries are being supervised under director control of the Provincial Ministry of Sports which is a question mark on lack seriousness previous govt towards the matter of public interest. Similarly, the three Children Complex Libraries including Lahore, Gujranwala and Sargodha are under control of the ministry of the School Education instead. Likewise, the all museums across the province of Punjab are being regulated by the Ministry of the Information and the Culture. The experts highlighted that in accordance with best practice in the worldwide, the museums are a very important part of library and it should remain attached with library.

Furthermore, some 18 employees are working on contract on temporary basis in Punjab Foundation Library and their salary are paid from the profit money of that money Rs 100 million which had been issued by the Govt of the Punjab at the time of its inauguration of PFL in 1985 (in form of capital seed money) to meet the administrative /recurring expenditures, the sources said. They astonishingly said that it would be a series story to explain the period of those who looted the public money since 1985 to 2010 inasmuch as the record of that era hadn’t been available anywhere in any form. Not only authority obliged the blue eyes ones but also gave them liberty of vandalism amid to mutual interests of beneficiary, the sources lamented.

Eventually, a proposed draft of Public Libraries Act, 2017 was submitted to Secretary Law Punjab on dated 13th April 2017 to provide for the establishment, maintenance and development of comprehensive public libraries system in the province of the Punjab. Later on, when its draft was presented to the Punjab Law Minister of PML (N), he showed his least interest in the matter and replied that the next govt would see into that matter, the official sources disclosed.

According to the secretariat sources, the present PTI Govt. couldn’t notify to give charge of secretary law till date, that’s why it could be likely to say that legal matters cannot be executed well in time. The official sources, experts and historians amicably recommended that first of all its Act should be passed from the Punjab Assembly and then its administrative control of the all public libraries across the province should be given to the PFL for candescent future of the country.

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