A book is a man’s best friend but not in Jammu and Kashmir where the libraries of the state which should have become the storehouse of knowledge and information are rotting to the core. India is also known for universities like Nalanda where thousands of manuscripts were stored and kept securely but not any more.
The libraries in all the parts of the state, and in particular Jammu lack basic services which are needed by visitors to sit, and soak in the knowledge offered by the vast repository of books. A recent RTI however revealed that very existence of these books is endangered as the library in Kacchi Chawni which is an important one in the state is losing books every month, and these are not returned. Hundreds of valuable books, manuscripts that include some rare gems have been lost because of the carelessness of the authorities, and the borrowers.
Not only this libraries in the state are still functioning on the old model with none of these digitalized fully. The Kacchi Chawni library is housed in a poorly maintained building which does not has proper ventilation and lighting, and that itself is a non-invitation to the visitors. In a modern era, the libraries should be modernized, digitized, and made easily accessible as this will democratize knowledge and make it available at to all sections of society. Books are dumped in these libraries and left to gather dust for years because no one comes to read these books or borrow them due to unfriendly nature of these libraries.
In fact it was recently revealed that top bureaucrats, educationists, and even public functionaries are responsible for not returning thousands of books which they have borrowed from public libraries.
Neither the civil society nor the government understand the importance of libraries in Jammu and Kashmir which is totally opposed to what happens in the Western countries. Both in USA and UK world class libraries are maintained by the government to ensure that people from all walks of life have access to books which could be in print or in digital format. These societies value knowledge, and know that development, and evolution of society is possible only when people read, write, and gain knowledge. Our ancestors also understood this but unfortunately we have forgotten this golden rule, and left our libraries rotting.