Book libraries in India were under threat from social media, which has also affected the habit of reading, especially among the youth, said participants at a seminar here on Sunday.
Eminent poets, writers, and social activists lamented the slow but sure death of “book reading habit”, especially among the younger generation, at the event at John’s Public Library.
Rajendra Milan, poet and retired librarian, quoted Gulzar’s “Kitaben jhankti hain band almaari ke sheeshon se… (books peer through the glass from locked cupboards),” to lament the decline of actual readers or patrons of libraries.
However social media critic Abhishek Mehrotra said: “this fear was pointless and unsubstantiated”.
“Forms of readership had changed and not the habit. Digital books on the internet were popular and saved not only time, money but also the environment. Conventional libraries may have gone out of fashion but the internet-based reading material continued to be popular with the younger set. Also, more writers have joined the mainstream,” he said.
Mehrotra also cited the example of two libraries, one in Karnal by policemen and the other in Muzaffarpur by an ex-prostitute, which were popular and had many supporters.
Other speakers observed that the younger readers seldom visited libraries. “Magazine reading was out of fashion and people, in general, were reluctant to borrow books from libraries,” said Pavan Agra, a popular poet.
Poetess Hridesh Choudhary, who presided over the seminar, said reading habits among the youth, and continued production of quality literature depended on libraries which need to be supported and popularised.
Agra Development Foundation secretary K.C. Jain said social media was not a platform for serious thinking or promoting creative ideas.