Conservation of books at stake at Punjab Public Library | Pakistan Today

Conservation of books at stake at Punjab Public Library

Conservation of thousands of precious manuscripts and books is at stake at the Punjab Public Library due to lack of facilities and resources, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Increase in humidity in the present season could prove to be fatal for old books and manuscripts. Lack of generators or alternate power supply is halting the fumigation process, which is used to disinfect the books and manuscripts through heating. Regular fumigation is must throughout the year and especially in the monsoon season. According to sources, there are about 0.4 million books available in the library, including 1,800 precious manuscripts. More than 60 percent books in the library are more than 100-year-sold and require proper conservation. The Punjab Public Library is one of the oldest libraries of the country and was founded in 1884 under the Societies Act 1860.
According to sources, the library administration had been requesting higher authorities for provision of resources to conserve and protect the manuscripts from infections caused by humidity and insects but there was a constant delay on part of the Punjab government. He said that recommendation of Rs 30 million to build the conservation lab, appointment of trained staff and buying of machinery was in the air but nothing has materialised yet.
The library used to be run by the managing committee of the education department of the Punjab government and now is working under administrative control of the education department with board of governors under the Punjab Government Educational and Training Institutions Ordinance, 1960. The Punjab chief secretary is the chairman of the board of governors.
Conservation of books requires a proper procedure by trained staff, first they de-acidify the books and then a special tissue paper is used to repair the damaged parts of the paper. A proper lab with facilities is needed for this purpose. According to sources, lack of generator facility was making life miserable for visitors of the library adding that digital record could not be traced without electricity, whereas, manual tracing of books also becomes extremely complicated due to dim light during load shedding. Students and citizens who travel miles to get books had to wait for electricity. They claimed that the library administration had been demanding generator but it looks like that the government was ignorant in this regard.
Condition of the library’s building was also deplorable, as renovation work, which started a few months ago has also been halted. Experts fear that if the Punjab government did not release immediate funds to preserve the priceless treasure of books then it could be gutted. Chief Librarian Azhara said that she could not talk to the media without instructions from high-ups.
Extraordinary and rare manuscripts in the library include exact copy of the Quranic script read by the third caliph of Islam Uthman (RA) during his martyrdom, copy of Imam Jafar Sadiq’s (RA) letter, one of the thinnest Quranic manuscripts and various other precious holographs. Library also contains Quranic script written from gold water. The oldest manuscript is of 711 Hijri.
Old members of the society said that precious books and manuscripts must be preserved. Engineering student Ahmed Farooq said that western countries take care of libraries like their own child but the situation is quite different in Pakistan. He said that ignoring libraries was one of the reasons of our decline as a nation. Farooq said that students of private-sector educational institutions were lucky to get fully-equipped libraries with central air-conditioning but still these libraries lack rare books and manuscripts, therefore, preservation of these libraries could be a huge asset to inculcate knowledge to the youth.
Teacher Jamil said that the Punjab government must had realised what we already possess before launching projects such as Danish schools and others. He said that the public has become a synonym of “bad quality” in the country whether it is a public hospital, school or library.

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