National Consultation on Public Libraries held on 23 and 24 January 2018

New Delhi : “Libraries are not the spaces where anthologies are documented and kept in a traditional way but institution where knowledge is preserved, made available and exchanged in the most contemporary form “were the words of Mr. Shravan Kumar Joint Secretary Ministry of Culture.

Mr. Kumar was speaking at the National Consultation on Public Library legislation and policy held on 23rd – 24th January 2018 at Delhi. This consultation was organized by Indian Public Library Movement (IPLM) in collaboration with International Federation of Library Association (IFLA), Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF) and Indian Library Association (ILA).

This two-day consultation was a culmination of the 4 regional consultations which was held in Hyderabad, Lucknow, Bhopal and Delhi respectively to deliberate on existing legislative framework on public libraries and discussed required changes in the light of changing knowledge needs of the surrounding communities and the way forward. The consolidated report of these consultations was submitted formally to the state Directors.

Public libraries being a state subject the participation of the state policy makers is immensely useful to take forward the cause of Public Libraries. The consultation had representation from 17states and union territories. Interacting on the occasion the policy makers gathered from different states strongly opined in favor of transforming libraries into new age knowledge institutions through enabling legislative framework, adequate financial resources, and public –private –people partnership. State representatives, during the course of the day, also deliberated on vision 2022 for Public libraries and on what needs to be done in order to realize that vision.

This two-day consultation is also meant to deliberate on the ways and means by which the Public libraries can be revived by introducing responsive knowledge programs and sustained knowledge services.

If public libraries are expected to become spaces that have more than just books and computers and where individuals could gather to explore, interact, and engage, a facilitative legal framework is needed and the said consultation is an endeavor to deliberate upon what and how it is to be done.

Two things are important – handholding those states which don’t have a legislation to have a robust and dynamic legislation and to facilitate functioning of these institutions as transformed inclusive and vibrant knowledge spaces; and secondly to work with those which have legislation but require major revision to suit the present day knowledge requirements. This is also needed because the environment in which these public libraries operate has changed considerably, but the legislative framework doesn’t adequately support the changing role which libraries might be required to play.

IPLM is a multi-stakeholder movement hosted by NASSCOM Foundation spread across 23 states covering 120 districts and more than 220 libraries at various levels.

This movement intends to develop a robust multi-stakeholder campaign around public libraries re-visioning its role in the present times. The idea of the movement is to create evidence based advocacy for public Libraries by building model libraries in different parts of the country working closely with state governments

The consultation was attended by policy makers from the Ministry of Culture, State Library Departments, IFLA and Indian Library Association (ILA).