Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Public Libraries in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), India: An Explorative Study

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Public Libraries in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), India: An Explorative Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

Public libraries strive to be one of the most popular cultural institution and a few civic or communal spaces that can be used gratuitously by the people for education and enjoyment. The rationalism underlying the institution of public library is to pave the way for greater accessibility to information for every section of people living in a community regardless of their age, gender, education and socio-economic milieu. The innate rationalism of the public libraries services can be apprehended at its best against the backdrop of the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto (1994) which states: "The public library, the local gateway to knowledge, provides a basic condition for lifelong learning, independent decision- making and cultural development of the individual and social groups". It concedes that public libraries are the quintessence of their communities, which provides free, easy accessible spaces, resources and services for everyone. Being a basic component of a nation`s knowledge tank, public libraries accommodates scholarly works and information in different formats and languages.

According to (Mantel, 2011; Prentice, 2011) public libraries in general are the crucial resources during the difficult economic times for job seeking and training, but are also one of the first public resources to face the budget cuts. Moreover, public libraries have a positive impact on children`s performance in school and on the neighbourhood as a place of stability and safety (Diamond, 2010). These are no longer a collection of information resources and services but are public places of importance that contribute to the social capital of their communities (Hillenbrand, 2005; Johnson, 2010). However, (Rasmussen and Jochumsen, 2003) feel that this success of public libraries is not the same so that they can sit back and relax. They further argue that the foundation of public libraries is surrounded with deep-rooted uncertainty where one moment the book is declared dead, the next alive and kicking and while some argue that the library should dissolve its physical presence into cyberspace, others suggest that the library should strengthen its role as a physical space in the local community.

Nevertheless, public libraries have been often regarded as a mainstay to the frontiers of the available knowledge domain made available to common people deprived of access to tools, resources, media and the enabling infrastructure in an era of digitalization. In the recent years research work on public libraries has lost its importance among the savants and it has become a neglected area. Given the serviceableness of the public libraries to communities and the real risk of public library cessation there is a need to evaluate their status on a timely manner. This study is based against this background that examines the status of public libraries in Varanasi in order to bring the current picture of a city that is considered treasure of traditional knowledge.

Varanasi: an enlightened city and a place of spiritual luminance

Varanasi, a city as old as time, is one of the most ancient cities of learning. This was a place where hundreds of enlightened beings lived at a time. In every street, you had an enlightened being to meet. A city that has seen the world turn, tides change and generations of humans born and die. Varanasi or Kashi, which has been standing the tests of time for over 5,000 years is said to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. In Mark Twain's words, "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together." What draws millions of pilgrims from all over the world to the city of Varanasi is the fact that it is one of the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism. Called the spiritual capital of India, this magnificent city of learning radiates endless energy. Despite being witness to ancient civilizations come and go over centuries, Varanasi is still alive, unabashedly colourful, vibrant, and wonderfully rich in history and legends. …

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