Published: 31st December 2018
Inaugurated by Gandhi, this AP library is losing patrons and needs help
The library has a total of 93,700 books on literature, mathematics, science, mythology, competitive exams, psychology, old comics and newspaper collections from 1910 and 1942 respectively
It is not surprising that a 10-year-old website is much more popular than a 100-year-old library and why will it not be? Vast information on any subject is easily available on the internet. But, the question is: Is the available information authentic and complete; are some parts missing and is there a scope to gain more information?
The increasing reliance on reading online and the diminishing interest in book-reading at libraries is the order of the day if deserted libraries — some of them historic ones with a collection of thousands of books - are any indication. Take the case of Saraswata Niketanam library, the foundation for which was laid by Mahatma Gandhi 100 years ago.
The library has a total of 93,700 books on literature, mathematics, science, mythology, competitive exams, psychology, old comics and newspaper collections from 1910 and 1942 respectively. It also has 50 300-year-old palm-leaf manuscripts and 10 paper manuscripts along with a few donated books like German-to-English dictionary. 1851’s Manucharitra is the oldest Telugu book, while 1852’s Charles Philip Brown Dictionary is the oldest English book in the shelves of the library. It has 30,000 books in English and 5,000 in Hindi.
Despite it having books written by legends such as Gurajada Apparao, Viswanath Satyanarayana, Sripada Subramaniya Shastri, Vedavyas to name a few, the future of the library looks bleak with fast declining patronage from book lovers. “Our ancestors used to look after the library since it was built. There was a time when it was full of students and book lovers. But now we can count the number of visitors on fingers,” said Padmaja, who takes care of the library out of her love for it.
“I joined Saraswata Niketanam in 2005. Initially, I used to read only literature and psychology related books. But, now as I am preparing for competitive exams I use the library to read books of that field,” said Tarashankar, who came to the library to celebrate the 100th year of the library. Founded in 1918, Mahatma Gandhi had laid the foundation stone during his visit to Vetapalem, a small village in Prakasam district.
During the freedom struggle, it was named Hindu Yuva Sangham as it was backed by the youth who took part in the freedom movement. Gandhiji had gifted his walking-stick, the most valuable memorabilia at the library, on his second visit in 1935.
The library has great historical importance but is still undiscovered by many literati. Though there are many who donate books, not many funds for the maintenance or infrastructure of the library. Also, there is no specific aid from the government.
Though some groups like AP Writers’ Association are trying to preserve libraries, it is not enough. Citizens, as well as government, should come forward to take some serious steps to preserve libraries from passing into history.