Reviving reading culture: ‘Libraries in Karachi in same condition as those in rural Sindh’
KARACHI: Libraries in Karachi are in the same condition as those in rural Sindh, said Pakistan Library Association Sindh secretary Riaz Ali Khaskheli.
He was speaking at a seminar, titled ‘Public Libraries in Sindh: Importance, Current Status and Challenges’, held at Aga Khan University on Saturday. Khaskheli was sharing the contents of his thesis on the hundreds of libraries across Sindh.
During the event, speakers added that there are over a 100 public libraries in Karachi alone but most of them are in a poor state. They also warned that the declining state of public libraries pointed to worrying social trends.
“Our public libraries have been abandoned. We need support to develop a healthy reading culture for our children, youth, women, adults and the elderly,” said Khaskheli speaking about the importance of libraries.
“Libraries act as the memory bank of our culture and history. These precious ideas need to be honoured and preserved as they are part of our identity as a civilisation. The municipal corporations and provincial government should pay attention to improving these libraries,” he added. Even if one per cent of the budget of steel mills is given to the libraries, then numerous libraries of Liaquat Memorial library stature could be formed across Karachi, he said.
Khaskheli also identified a library in Memon Goth that is currently being used as a prison by a landowner. The library originally belonged to social welfare department, who then gave it to the landlord, he claimed.
The libraries at government colleges are not being used, while public schools have no libraries at all, he pointed out.
Khaskheli also spoke about the different techniques that can be used to promote the culture of libraries. Speaking about a library in Gadap Town, he said that it has five hundred books. According to a two-month survey conducted by a NGO, around 30 people visit the facility on regular basis. The libraries need to be made functional first and people will be attracted, he added.
People used to put up career opportunities at Ali Baba Public Library in Kotri and this attracted young people.
Similarly, “we can hold weekly or monthly events in which you can invite different people and hold sessions with them. This will bring people to the library,” said Khaskheli.
“Eleven libraries are currently operating under the Sindh culture department,” pointed out Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro, assistant librarian Mumtaz Buriro.
He then showed pictures of Hyder Khan Laghari Library Manjhand, which is named after the famous writer Hyder Khan Laghari. The picture revealed the dilapidated state of the library.
“The library fell victim to the religious and political conflict between different groups of the area.
They think as long as there is no library, people wouldn’t read newspapers, so there would be less of a problem for them,” he claimed.
Liaquat Memorial Library director Bashir Ahmed Abro, Defence Central Library Complex secretary Aisha Choudhary, Habib University reference librarian Furrukh Hussain and Muneeb Ahmed Khan of USAID Sindh Reading Programme also spoke at the seminar.