1. The National Library: its Organization, Functions and Duties

The National Library is the biggest library in the country with a fairly large collection of reading materials, large contingent of professionally qualified personnel and varied kind of readers.

The Library started its journey with the opening of the Calcutta Public Library in March 1836 at 13 Esplanade Row, a portion of the house of Dr Francis Pemble Strong, Civil Surgeon of 24 Parganas, Bengal. The Library made significant landmarks in the history of library movement in India. Peary Chand Mitra, who worked as Sub-Librarian in 1836, became Librarian in 1848, printed the Catalogue of the Calcutta Public Library, and in 1855 he brought out a supplementary volume to the first Classified Catalogue, the first of such kind in India.

In order to establish a good library by amalgamating the Calcutta Public Library's rich collection with those of the Official Imperial Library formed in 1891 by combining a number of Secretariat libraries, His Excellency Lord Curzon saw the Imperial Library (Indentures Validation) Act passed in 1902, and formally opened to the public the Imperial Library on 30 January 1903. In his address on the opening, Lord Curzon remarked:

 'It is intended that it should be a library of reference, a working place for students, and a repository of material for the future historians of India, in which, so far as possible, every work written about India at any time can be seen and read.'

After Independence of India, the Imperial Library (Change of Name) Act was passed in 1948 and the Library was accorded a special status of an institution of national importance in the Article 62 in the Seventh Schedule of the Union List of the Constitution of India. B S Kesavan was appointed Librarian who played instrumental role in obtaining the Viceregal Palace in Belvedere, Alipore for the Library and shifted it to this permanent location. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the then Union Minister of Education opened the Library to public on 1 February 1953.

The Library continued to function on the lines of Imperial Library for over two decades, as its role and functions were not defined. Meanwhile significant developments occurred in building a national depository of books in the National Library. By an order of the Government of India all books that got accumulated in the princely states under the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 were transferred to the National Library; the Delivery of Books (Public Libraries) Act, 1954 was passed to facilitate four big public libraries in the country acquire books that are published within the territory of India, free of cost. The Act was amended in 1956 to include within its purview every periodical publication and newspaper. The Government by signing bilateral cultural agreements with other countries, encouraged exchange programme for the Library, whereby promoting exchange of not only publications, but personnel as well. The Library was made repository of publications of the Commonwealth countries, United Nation and its agencies.

It was in 1968 that the Government of India appointed a National Library Reviewing Committee under the Chairmanship of Justice V S Jha to review the condition at the National Library and outline its functions. The Committee outlined the basic features of the National Library, submitted its report on 14 July 1969, which the Government of India accepted. The Library has been functioning broadly within the framework outlined.


Functions and duties

The National Library serves as a permanent repository of all reading and information materials produced in India as well as of all printed material authored by Indians and inclusive of those concerning India but authored by foreigners, wherever published and in whichever language. The Library has a good collection of publications in Indian languages besides English and other foreign languages. It also has a rich collection of manuscripts and rare books in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Bengali and Tamil.

The Reviewing Committee in its report of 1969 suggested that the following should be the basic features and functions of the National Library:

Acquisition and conservation of all significant printed materials produced in the country to the exclusion of ephemera;
Collection of printed materials concerning the country wherever published and also acquisition of photographic record of such materials that are not available within the country;
Acquisition and conservation of manuscripts having national importance;
Planned acquisition of foreign materials required by the country;
Rendering of bibliographical and documentation services of retrospective materials, both general and specialised;
Acting as a referral centre purveying full and accurate knowledge of all sources of bibliographical activities;
Provision of photocopying and reprographic services; and
Acting as the centre for international book exchange and international loan.
The Government of India accepted the above recommendations and the National Library has since been functioning within the framework of the aims and objectives outlined above.

Administrative and Functional Set-up

The National Library is presently functioning under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, New Delhi. The Director being the Head of the Department exercises all the administrative and financial powers as delegated to the Head of the Departments in Government of India. Assisted by two Principal Library and Information Officers [PLIO] the Director administers the Library. Five Library and Information Officers [LIO] assist the PLIOs and forty Assistant Library and Information Officers [ALIO] assist the LIOs. The Principal Library and Information Officers control the professional side and a Senior Administrative Officer, assisted by two Administrative Officers, looks after the administrative part of the Library and its employees.

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