Book of revelations

While philanthrops across the country are doing all they can to build libraries, the Central Library at Tribhuvan University has been facing problems retaining the invaluable stock. Some of those who have borrowed books, sometimes as expensive as they are rare, have cared a fig about returning them, let alone on time. To everybody’s consternation, the list of defaulters displayed at the Central Library sports the names of those who have held high government offices at one point of time or other — a lot, that the people would normally like to associate with spotless conduct. And the Library’s inconvenience stems not so much from what post the defaulters’ hold as from the recurring menace of borrowers not showing their faces thereafter. Although some of those listed claim to have returned the books, the problem nonetheless highlights the difficulties libraries in Nepal and elsewhere face.

If defaulting on returning books is as old as the art of organised book keeping, stealing books is perhaps even older. The Central Library too is not without its share of book lifters. Besides two teachers, one student in particular was found to have lifted 20 most valuable books some time back. The problem is bigger with book pilferers, who do not have qualms tearing reams of pages from even the extremely rare titles. The Central Library faces a serious challenge of maintaining its stock intact. Such hurdles will not go away unless the readers get enlightened about the benefits accruing from healthy reading habits. This would certainly include inculcating the civic sense of returning the borrowed books in time for the sake of other readers. The libraries may be forced to lock the books, which in fact is even worse than losing a tome for the simple reason that a stolen book is at least likely to be read rather than remain locked.

While there is no substitute to ending different forms of malpractices, the Central Library, on its part, must take extra precautionary measures to overcome the problem. Just as the electronic equipment at the entry point has reduced stealing drastically, observers agree that the Central Library needs two pieces of such equipment. Furthermore, surveillance cameras in the library would certainly bring down the rate of pilferage down. While reader-awareness is the best remedy, it must be remembered that kleptomaniacs and unsolicited bibliophiles still keep the ante one up against efforts at vigilance. Knowledge has to be shared and books are one of the means to ensure that. Mischief mongers should have been chastened by the contents of the volumes they plunder instead of being carried away by the infamous and infectious fad of lifting books.