Libraries struggling to survive

Kathmandu, April 23

Three major libraries of the nation — Nepal National Library, Kaiser Library and TU Central Library — experienced severe blow during last year’s earthquake.

Buildings were damaged, book racks were destroyed and people no more could visit the libraries. Then, the downpour that followed the quake damaged precious books.

One year has passed after the quake, but these libraries have not come into full operation.

Nepal National Library

The earthquake damaged the building of Nepal National Library in Harihar Bhawan, Pulchowk. The building that housed around 105,000 books was given a red sticker, making it unusable.

The books were packed in plastic sacks and stored inside a room in Mahendra Bhawan High School, Sano Gaucharan.

One year has passed, and the books are still in the school.

“We haven’t been able to keep them in racks because of lack of space. Many books are left with torn pages, while insects have damaged a number of books that date back to ancient times,” informed Prem Raj Adhikari, library officer at Nepal National Library.

The plan is to demolish the damaged building and build a new one at the same location. That is why they are not taking any step to “shift the books to a temporary shelter,” said Adhikari.

But the process of demolition is taking time. The government is not taking timely decision to allow the library authorities to demolish it, informed Adhikari, adding “As the government manages our library, we can’t do anything without its permission”.

It is still unsure when the process will begin and the books will be back in their safe abode.

Kaiser Library

The plight of Kaiser Library is a bit different — as you step inside the building, sacks filled with books greet you from one corner. On your right is a room filled with books that are arranged in racks. You can choose your favourite book (if it is in the rack), step out of the library and read it in the open space.

“We bought book racks and arranged the books on the shelves,” informed Dasarath Mishra, Under-secretary and Library Chief at Kaiser Library. Kaiser Library contains 60,000 books, 700 manuscripts and various other archaeological items. But piles of books still need to be shelved, which is why they can’t provide readers with books that are inside the sacks. They plan to finish shelving by April 27.

Visitors are also not allowed to go to the first storey, due to the building’s vulnerable condition.

The building needs retrofitting to make it safe for the public. “We are waiting for the government’s permission so that we can start retrofitting it. The cost has already been estimated,” Mishra informed.

TU Central Library

All the bookshelves on the ground floor and the first floor of TU Central Library, Kirtipur were damaged in the quake. The first floor, that had developed a significant number of cracks, could no more accommodate the books.

But the library took quick action — the piles of books have already been shifted to a safer place in the same building. They have been shelved in new racks on the ground floor. As the upper floor is no more usable, a six-room prefabricated library is being constructed.

“We are hopeful that the rooms will get completed within the next two weeks,” Dukhari Niraula, Library Assistant at TU Central Library informed, adding, “Only wiring work and window-fitting are left.”

Sections such as clearance, ISBN services, membership, general section et cetera are running smoothly. The library is yet to manage newspapers because “we lack sufficient space”.

The students regularly visit the library and study in a peaceful environment.