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Library Legislation in India


1. Introduction: Act means preparing the format of law or legislation. In the context of libraries, the Library Act means to give legal provision for establishing a library system, its maintenance, services, functions, right and management under any state or a national government. Library legislation is capable of regulating various organs of public library services. It is an instrument for the development of public libraries in a planned manner to ensure establishment, development and maintenance of libraries in a uniform pattern. It can help in promoting a sense of self consciousness among the people who would feel it obligatory on their part to use services offered by the library. Library tax / rates form the basis of financial support for public libraries in the states having library legislation. Library rate is levied by a local authority but the tax is levied by state or central government.

2. History of Library Legislation: In 1848 library legislation started in USA. In the year 1850 the first library act was passed in Great Britain. At present, most of the countries specify free use of public library services.
In ancient India, learning was the concern of the Brahmin and the common man had to depend for his/her enlightenment on the spoken words of gurus. General people were also accustomed to this oral tradition of learning and as a result, in ancient India there was no tradition of public library legislation. The idea of an integrated library system was first introduced by S.R. Ranganathan at the first “All Asia Educational Conference” held at Banaras in 1930. There he presented a “Model Library Act” that forms the basis of the Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka library legislation and as a whole the subsequent library legislation in India. In 1942 on the request of Indian Library Association (ILA), Dr. S. R. Ranganathan drafted another bill called ‘The Model Public Library Bill’. A Model Library Bill was also drafted in 1963 by a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. D. M. Sen. Then in 1972 revision was made to the Model Library Act of 1930. Another model public libraries bill was prepared by the library legislation subcommittee of the Planning Commission in 1966.

3. Need for Library Legislation: Free communication is essential for the preservation of a free society and creative culture. A public library expects its users only to spend time and not money for the utilization of services. In that situation, the question arises from where will the finance come? It has been experienced that public library service can be effectively offered only through legislation. Library Legislation is needed to:
a) Support Democratic Way of Life: Provision of public library service is a natural corollary to the democratic way of life.
b) Support the Public Library: A law helps in creating necessary conditions under which public libraries can be established nationwide and to put it on a sound and sure financial footing by way of levy of library tax. It is needed to make the public library independent from subscription, donation or private gift and to save the library from political influence.
c) Support the Laws of Library Science: In order to achieve the second law it is desirable that economy factor should not stand as a barrier. This will be possible through library legislation, which will provide for finance of public libraries at various levels to achieve free library services for all.

4. Components of Library Legislation: Dr. S. R. Ranganathan recognized the following components of public library act.
a) Preliminaries: The description of all the terms used in the act and the brief title of the act are under this component of library Act.
b) Top Management: It discusses the issues relating to the management of the libraries that will fall under the jurisdiction of the Act, such as who will manage the libraries. It is the second component for consideration.
c) Library Committee: To give suggestions to the library authority (top management) and to the librarians, a committee is to be constituted. The library Act should clearly mention who will be the members of such library committees, what are their functions, rights, qualifications, responsibilities, etc.
d) Finance: The library legislation has the provision of financial support to the public libraries, but the provision to be made in library legislation would depend upon the social, political and economic environment. There are mainly two ways of making provision of finance to public libraries through library legislation. They are
i) Annual budget allocation by the state out of its total funds with capital grants from central government.
ii) Levying of library cess with a matching grant from the state government.
The Act should mention clearly-
i) Rate of library cess / Local extra tax or surcharge;
ii) Goods on which tax will be levied i.e. vehicle, land, house, other properties, etc;
iii) The method of receiving the cess from the public;
iv) Checking of received money through cess;
v) Other sources of finance;
vi) There should be a component in the library Act itself to maintain all the records of accounts and audit from time to time. The appointment of staff, categories of the staff, pay scale, service condition and working period should also be mentioned in the Act.
vii) The laws, rules and by laws should be mentioned in the Act.
In the process of enacting the library legislation, the levying of library cess should not be the pre condition. Otherwise, it will lose the support of the general public or other members of the society.

5. Characteristics of Library Legislation: Some of the important characteristics of library legislation are-
i) The library legislation must be simple and general. It should also allow future modification or development.
ii) It must be free from political influence or political changes.
iii) It must define the respective responsibilities of the local, state and national government.
iv) It must make the library service compulsory and free to one and all.
v) It should create conditions for libraries to flourish.
vi) It must coordinate and control library activities in full recognition of the people to have free access to the information and knowledge.
vii) It must meet every interest of its reader.
viii) Different tasks can be assigned to different types of libraries based on specialization to ensure a better service to the community with the least cost.
ix) It also must take into account the other types of libraries.

6. Role of Different Bodies in the Process of Enacting Library Legislation: The following roles can be played by different bodies in the process of enacting the library legislation in respective states.
a) Library Association: The local as well as the state and national level library associations can lay down a strategy to get the public legislation passed. They can utilize various media and platforms to propagate the idea of library legislation. Members of the state assembly, especially the concerned ministers should be approached and be presented a strong case for library legislation. Indian Library Association must provide all the support and guidance needed for the purpose.
b) Library Professionals: The library professionals should make the general as well as the elite people aware about the significant role that can be played by the library. They should first do so through their services in the organization in which they are working and then through newspapers, radio, television, etc.
c) Elite Groups: The elite have the responsibility of framing policies, procedures etc. As the leader of the society they also have the hidden responsibility to give the people the best they can. As such, considering the role that can be played by the library they should take upon themselves the responsibilities of awakening the general public about the library services, facilities, etc.
d) Political Leader and General Public: Leaders, who matter in decision making, be given special attention in enacting library legislation. The general people should also give pressure to enact the library legislation.

7. Present Status of Library Legislation in India: The credit of enacting a library act for the first time in India goes to the Kolhapur princely state of the present Maharashtra in 1945. The act is presently non functional. In India, twenty one states have so far enacted library legislation and the rest are providing library services without legislation. The list of the twenty one Acts is given below

Sl. No.
Library Act
Year
1)
Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras) Public Libraries Act
1948
2)
Andhra Pradesh (Hyderabad) Public Libraries Act
1960*
3)
Karnataka (Mysore) Public Libraries Act
1965
4)
Maharashtra Public Libraries Act
1967
5)
West Bengal Public Libraries Act
1979
6)
Manipur Public Libraries Act
1988
7)
Haryana Public Libraries Act
1989
8)
Kerala Public Libraries Act
1989
9)
Mizoram Public Libraries Act
1993
10)
Goa Public Libraries Act
1993
11)
Gujarat Public Libraries Act
2001
12)
Orissa Public Libraries Act
2001
13)
Uttar Pradesh Public Libraries Act
2005
14)
Uttarakhand (Uttaranchal) Public Libraries Act
2005
15)
Rajasthan Public Libraries Act
2006
16)
Bihar Public Libraries Act
2007
17)
Chattisgarh Public Libraries Act
2007
18)
Pondichery Public Libraries Act
2008
19)
Arunachal Pradesh Public Libraries Act
2009
20)
Telangana Public Libraries Act
1960*
21)
Lakshadwep Public Libraries Act
2014

8. Conclusion: None of the countries in which library legislation exists are able to provide entirely satisfactory and effective library services. All of them have problem to some degree despite the fact that there has been revision of laws in most countries. Again, there are many countries without legislation but they are serving the general public in a better way in comparison to the countries that have legislation. So, it is needless to say that the Library Legislation does not ensure proper functioning of the public libraries. It only ensures the provision of finance for the public libraries. The service is entirely depends on the mindset of the people who work there.

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