SRINAGAR: More than 70 per cent government libraries in Jammu and Kashmir are operating in rented accommodations, as the state government has failed to upgrade the infrastructure.
The official data maintained by the department of Libraries and Research shows that around 103 of 136 libraries existing in various districts of the state are housed in rented buildings.
As per the data, 60 out of 79 libraries in Kashmir Valley are functioning in rented buildings, most of which are not suitable for the purpose.
The officials in the department blamed it on the difficulties in acquiring land for the development of infrastructure.
“It is becoming difficult for the department to identify land for constructing library buildings in Kashmir. In places like Srinagar and Baramulla, the land price has gone up and the department has not enough funds to buy it.
“But some of the library buildings in Kulgam, Dooru and Charar-e-Shareef are already under construction,” an official said, wishing anonymity.
“We are trying to do it in a phase-wise manner. At present, some library buildings are being constructed in the state. In the recent years, 25 libraries have been shifted to state-owned buildings while 12 others have been provided rent-free accommodation,” he said.
The insiders in the department said the proprietors of the rented buildings have been increasing the rates at will.
“Often, it leads to confrontations between the department and the building owners. They ask us to vacate the buildings and sometimes demand huge sums from us as rent. We have to bear it till the government manages to establish buildings of its own,” they said.
Also, at least 40,000 books, as per the department’s records, went missing from these public libraries in 2013.
An example of government’s seriousness towards the development of public libraries in the state is the SPS Library at Srinagar.
The construction of the library’s new building is incomplete even 12 years after it was started.
Deputy Director for Libraries and Research department, Ahmad Hussain Bhat, said they have sent the government a proposal for construction of four libraries per year in the state.
“Gradually, we are setting up new buildings to accommodate our public libraries. We have sent our suggestion to the government, seeking establishment of four library buildings per year with the funds released by New Delhi,” he said.
About the missing books, he said an order has been issued to the all libraries to recover the books from the people.
“Otherwise, they will have to pay for it from their salaries,” he said.