..... Appreciating the automation and networking of public libraries, Minister of State for Tourism & Culture underscored the need for creating awareness about libraries to attract more people to the written word. He enumerated various steps taken by the Government to improve library services and specifically referred to the ongoing construction of the new building for the Central Library at Srinagar and the automation and networking of libraries project.

Commissioner/Secretary, Department of Tourism & Culture, Mr. Atal Dulloo said that after the successful completion of the Pilot Phase of the Project, other public libraries at district, tehsil and block level will also be taken up for automation and networking. He said the project is beneficial both for the department and readers as it would improve services and also allow worldwide access to library information.

In his welcome address, Khalid Bashir Ahmad said that his department has taken in hand another major project for digitization and archival of old and rare books with Internet access. He said 472 such titles in different languages have been identified and the project proposal submitted by National Informatics Centre is in the final stages of receiving the administrative approval. He said archival of about 6000 digitized manuscripts in different languages, forming a rich and proud collection of the department, is also part of the project, besides designing a website of the department.

Giving a brief account of the recent initiatives taken by his department, Director Libraries & Research said that efforts were on to upgrade library facilities in the State both in terms of infrastructure and collection. He said work is apace on the multi-storied new central library flagship project of the department. Estimated to cost Rs. 17.34 crore, the library would provide state-of-the-art library facility in the State with facilities like an art gallery, auditorium, fire-proof blocks for manuscripts, Internet café, exhibition hall, children section, researchers’ cabins and cafeteria.

A new three-storied block was added to the SRS Central Library, Jammu recently. He said new spacious buildings for District Library Pulwama and Gani Memorial Library cum Reading Centre were constructed and thrown open for public in December and June last. Similarly, he said, construction of new buildings for District Library Udhampur and Tehsil Library Kulgam has been started. He said as it stands today, the department faces a severe accommodation crunch in so far as public libraries are concerned. To overcome this problem, measures have been initiated to have new buildings for other libraries in a phased manner, he added.

Referring to the selection and purchase of books for libraries, Khalid said that the procedure has been made more transparent and the two committees constituted by the Government every year have been broad-based to include more scholars, writers and intellectuals as members. He said during the current year so far, 1300 latest titles on different subjects were purchased for the libraries. This, he said, is the largest purchase in a given year so far, adding, the process for more purchases this year has been set in motion. He said one of the thrust areas during the current year was to make available books on competitive examinations for the benefit of the aspiring civil servants. Over 100 titles on different subjects were purchased and made available at central, district and tehsil libraries. In the next phase later this year, all block libraries will be also provided these titles, he added.