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Library Movement in India

1. Introduction: The first libraries were only partly libraries, and stored most of the unpublished records, which are usually viewed as archives. The archeological as well as literary evidence (written by Chiness travellers in India) make it clear that writing and reading of manuscripts were regularly practiced in ancient period since the fourth century B.C. to the sixth century after Christ. This must have led to the growth and development of collection of manuscripts in important centers of learning. The important library of that period was that of Nalanda University of Bihar in the fourth century AD. The library was said to be in three grandest buildings, the area of which was called “Drama Ganja” meaning mast of religion. The other important academic library of that period was Vikramsila, Odantapuri, Somapuri, Jaggadal, Mithila, Vallabhi, Kanheri, etc. During that period there was a considerable activity in South India too, and there was a tradition about the libraries in that period known as sangam age.
The Buddhist of India laid special emphasis on the writing of manuscripts and maintaining their collection. The Jains and Hindus also made immense contribution in the field of learning. They patronized education and literary activities, established innumerable institution called Upasrayas and Temple College.
Acharya Nagarjuna, the founder of Mahayana Buddhism is known to have maintained a library on the top floor of the university building. It was also said that Taxila has a rich library.

2. Medieval Period: The medieval cycle may be roughly taken to have ended with the seventeenth century. It was during the ascending phase of this cycle that the giant intellectual and spiritual leaders such as Sankara, Ramanuja and Madheva flourished.
a) Personnel Libraries: From the earliest times the kings and nobles of India patronized education and encouraged writing of manuscripts and their preservation. Even the princes of small states maintained their manuscripts libraries. The tradition was continued till the nineteenth century. The emperors of Timuride dynasty were patrons of learning. With the exception of Aurangzeb all the early Mughal rulers extended their support to art, music and literature. The libraries also made remarkable progress during their times. Humayun converted a pleasure house in purana quila in Delhi into a library. Akbar maintained an “imperial library”; he was also instrumental in introducing reforms in the classification and storage of books. Jahangir is said to have maintained a personnel library which moved with him wherever he went.
b) Public Libraries: In the seventeenth and the eighteenth century, the development of libraries received an impetus due to rise of European settlement in India. From 1690, Calcutta began to develop as one of the principal English settlement, when a large number of British began to settle there. Subsequently, the circulation and subscription libraries came into being.
The East India Company established the Fort St. David library in 1707 at Cuddalore. In the year 1709, the society for promotion of Christian Knowledge sent out a circulating library to Calcutta, the first of its kind in India. Subsequently, a number of such libraries were established in India, the notable among them were Fort St. George library (1714), East India Company’s library, Bombay (1715), John Andrews circulating library at Fort William, Calcutta (1770), The Calcutta Circulating library (1787), etc.

3. Period of Modern Cycle (Till Nineteenth Century): The growth and development of libraries till nineteenth century can be looked from the following angles.
a) Public Libraries: The role of Mughal rulers and missionaries in establishment of some libraries also find their way to modern cycle. Some of the scattered manuscripts of the early periods have been collected and preserved in many modern manuscripts libraries. These are found in many states in India. Those of Baroda, Banaras, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Mysore, Poona, Tanjavur and Trivandrum are well known.
The year 1808 is considered an important period during which the then government of Bombay initiated a proposal to register libraries which were to be given copies of books published from “funds for the encouragement of literature”. This has been the first attempt to register the libraries and assist them with literature by the government.
In the early 19th century John Andrew’s circulating library at Fort William, Calcutta (established in 1770) was converted into a public library. A few public libraries started appearing sporadically here and there during the same period in this country. The notable among them are Asha Granthalaya, Waltair (1800), Calcutta Literary Society’s Library (1818), United Services Library, Poona (1818), Raghunandan Library, Puri (1821), Bombay General Library (1830), etc.
In August 1835, the Calcutta public library was established. It was meant to serve the needs of all ranks and classes without distinction. In 1860, a small library was established by Jean Mitchel in Madras as a part of the Museum. It was opened to the public in 1896. It was named Connemera Public Library, this library can be claimed to be the first true public library, only a nominal refundable deposit was required. In 1948, it becomes State Central library.
In 1867, the Government of India enacted the Press and Registration of Books Act (XXV) under which the publisher of a book was supposed to deliver free, to the provincial government concerned, one copy of the book and one or two more copies, if the provincial government so desired, to be transmitted to the central government.
In 1876, Khuda Baksh Oriental public library (Patna) was established. Maulvi Muhammod Baksh Khan, on his death left a collection of 1500 manuscripts. It formed the nucleus of the library. In 1891, the library was opened to the public.
The imperial library was established at Calcutta in 1891. Lord Curzon, the viceroy of India promulgated the imperial library act 1902, which is based on Registration of books act of 1867, amalgamating Calcutta public library with imperial library. Soon after independence the Government of India passed the National Library Act in 1948 following which the imperial library was renamed as the National library of India.
b) Academic Libraries: The first college to be started in this country is the Fort William College in 1800. Sir John Colville in 1857, introduced the bill to establish universities in India. In the same year Lord Delhousie, then the Governor General of India, gives immediate consent to this bill. As a result, the first three modern universities were started at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in 1857 based on the patterns of London University.
i) Calcutta University Library: Calcutta University was the first to be established on January 24, 1857. On February 24, 1869 Mr. Joy Kissen Mookherjee of Uttar para donated Rs. 5,000.00 to the University for purchasing books for the library. The senate in the year 1872 succeeded in constructing a beautiful building at a cost of Rs. 4, 34,697.00. This is the first and oldest university library that was established in British India. In 1874, the library also started a collection of periodicals. In 1876-77, Calcutta University library had a good collection of books with printed catalogue service to the user. In 1934, a new library building was set up in the Calcutta University. In 1937, the Calcutta University Library appointed the professionally qualified librarian, Dr. Nihar Ranjan Roy. He, for the first time in India introduced the DDC and AACR rule for providing effective library services to the user.
ii) Madras University Library: The Madras University Library was opened in 1907. The government of India gave a special grant of Rs. 1,00,000.00 to the library to develop its book collection. In 1924, Dr. S. R. Ranganathan joined the Madras University Library as librarian. He was the first professionally qualified librarian in Indian history. Due to his active involvement he was able to receive Rs. 6,000.00 and Rs. 10,00,000.00 in the year 1926. This was the first grant to be received from the government in the history of the university libraries in India. As a result of this grant, the University Library that was in-house at the Connemara Public Library since 1908, was shifted to the new location in 1936. Again five well-trained reference librarians were appointed to provide special reference service to the user. This was done for the first time in the Indian history.
iii) Bombay University Library: The Bombay University library was established very lately due to the lack of donation. It was the university authorities of Bombay that offered a donation of Rs. 20,000.00 for construction of library building. In 1931, a very special grant of Rs. 10,000 was given by Kikabhai and Meneklen the sons of late Premchand Roy Chand. In 1939, the Central government provides a special grant of Rs. 50,000.00 to the University of Bombay library to strengthen its collection.
iv) Punjab University Library: Punjab University was established in 1882 and in the year 1908 Punjab University Library was opened.
v) Banaras Hindu University Library: Banaras Hindu University was established in 1916. In 1926-27 the construction of the library was made by the handsome donation of Rs. 2,00,000.00 by the late Sir Siyaji Rao, the Maharaja of Borada.
c) Research Libraries: The Asiatic society of Bengal that was established at Calcutta in 1784 started building up a good research library since its inception. The Asiatic Society of Bombay, founded in 1804, also developed a good library. The first technical library to be founded in this country is the Victoria Technical library at Nagpur in 1806. The Madras Literary Society had founded its library in 1812.

4. Twentieth Century
a) Role of Individual: The development of public libraries as a movement may be said to have started by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the ruler of Baroda state in 1906. During his visit to USA he was impressed by the public libraries system in that country. In order to organize libraries along modern lines, the Maharaja appointed an American librarian by name William Allenson Borden as curator of libraries of his state. During his tenure of office that is in between 1910-13, Borden could organize a very good network of free library services in the state. However, this example did not set a pace in the later development due to lack of interest on the part of the state government. But the contribution made by Maharaja Sayajirao III would be written in golden letters in the history of public library movement in India.
The library movement in Baroda originated as the peoples movement under the leadership of Motibhai Amin (a public leader) in the form of Mitra Mandal (Society of Friends) as early as 1906 which received state patronage in 1960. Newton Mohan Dutta, curator of libraries at Baroda also did good work.
There has been a number of pioneers who made contribution to the library movement in Andhra Pradesh.  Out of them Sir Iyyanki Venkata Ramanayya holds a place of pride. From Bengal we have the name of Monindra Dev Rai Mahashaya.  Master Motilal (1876-1949), by his own effort and meagre resource established Shri Sanmati Pustakalaya (a public library) in Jaipur in 1920. From Punjab we had Sant Ram Bhatia, who played an important role in promoting the cause of public libraries in Punjab. In Assam, the library movement at its true spirit was led by Late Kumudeshar Barthakur (1893-8th November 1966), a retired Secondary School teacher under the brand name of Assam Library Association.
The contribution of S.R. Ranganathan is unique and remarkable. He is regarded as the father of Indian library movement. The idea of an integrated library system was first introduced by him at the first “All Asia Educational Conference” held at Benerai in 1930. There he presented a model library act that form the basis of the Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka library legislation and as a whole the subsequent library legislation in India.
b) Role of Library Association and Organization: Library association also played a vital role in the progress and development of library movement in India.
The Andhra Desa Library Association, founded in 1914, is the first of its kind in India. It started the first full-fledged professional periodical in 1925 under the title “Indian Library Journal”.
All Indian Library Association was also set up in 1920, but it could not do anything for libraries and their development. By Dr. S. R. Ranganathan’s effort Indian Library Association was set up in 1933 in its present form with its head quarter in Calcutta (Kolkata). The association published a quarterly periodical named ABGILA.
Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF) was set up in 1972, on the occasion of the bicentenary of Raja Rammohun Roy who raised the banner of revolt against obscurantism in the society and devoted his life to fight against injustice. RRRLF is an autonomous organization of Dept of Culture, Govt of India and it provides different types of grant to different public libraries.
Bengal Library Association (1925), Madras Library Association (1928), Punjab Library Association (1929), Assam Library Association (Sadau Assam Puthibharal Sanga) (1938), etc. played vital roles for the growth and development of public libraries in the respective states of origin.
c) Role of Union and State Government
i) First Five Year Plan (1951-56): The government of India in its first five year plan of educational development includes the scheme of “Improvement of Library Service”. This scheme envisaged a network of libraries spread all over the country. The proposal of setting up a National central library at New Delhi was also made. During the first five year plan nine state governments i.e. Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, etc. decided to set up state central libraries.
ii) Second Five Year Plan (1956-1961):    Under the second five year plan the government of India allocated about Rs. 140 lakhs for setting up a country wide network of libraries in 320 districts. Under this plan, the “Institute of Library Science” at University of Delhi was also established. The refresher course on “The public library and national development” on March 2, 1959 also started.
iii) Third Five Year Plan: During the third plan period besides the Institute of Library science, University of Delhi other universities also upgraded the facilities for training library personnel and enhanced the facilities for research in library science.
iv) Fourth Five Year Plan: The government of India announced on July 16, 1964, appointment of a 16 member education commission to make a compressive review of the entire field of education and advice the government on evolving a national pattern at all stages of education. The commission has formed various sub committees to prepare report on various aspect of education including the libraries, which plays a great role towards the betterment of libraries in India. During the fourth five year plan, the government of India set up the Raja Rammohan Roy Library Foundation in 1972 to make the bicentenary of the birth of Raja Rammohan Roy, the father of modern India.
d) Role of UGC: The UGC gave a new life to the university and college libraries. It gave librarian a status, prestige and a better life. The major commission and committees formed by UGC for the growth and development of college and university libraries are
i) Library Committee (1957): The UGC programme (Commission) appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. S. R. Ranganathan to advise on a wide range of subjects including the standards and principles for the designing of library building, fitting and furniture, administration of university libraries, training of librarianship etc.
ii) Review Committee (1961): In order to consider the question of improving and coordinating the standards of teaching, and conducting research in the department of library science in Indian Universities under the chairmanship of Dr. S. R. Ranganathan a review committee was formed in July 1961. The first meeting of the committee was held on 15th July 1961, in which a questionnaire was finalized on the basis of data supplied by the Indian Universities. In response to this questionnaire a note was prepared by the UGC, which form the back bone of many developments in the subject of library science.
Other mentionable Committees and Commissions are
* Education Commission (1964): Chairman D. S. Kothari.
* Pal Committee (1970): Chairman A. B. Lal.
* Mehrotra Committee (1983): Chairman R. C. Mehrotra.
* Committee on National Network System for Universities (1988): Chairman Yash Pal.
* Curriculum Development Committee on LISc (1990).
iii) Work Flow Seminar: UGC organized a seminar on “work flow” in libraries in New Delhi from March 4-7, 1959, Dr. C. D. Deshmukh, the then chairman of UGC, extended assistance to libraries for constructing building and furniture as well as for the engaging the staff on a scale which is, relatively speaking, larger than found in many other countries. The recommendations of the seminar were circulated to the universities and colleges all over the country. These comments were considered by the commission and were accepted.
iv) Revision of Pay Scale: Another great improvement in the history of universities and college libraries is the revision of salary scales of professionally qualified librarian under the third five year plan.
e) Role of UNESCO: The great contribution of UNESCO towards the library profession in India is that it gave it an international status. UNESCO for the first time started the first pilot project by establishing the Delhi Public Library in October 1951. The main aim of this project was to provide information on the problem of public library services for the parts of India in particular and for Asia in general.
The Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC) was set up in 1952 by the government of India with technical assistance from UNESCO. In 1964, UNESCO assisted INSDOC again in setting up its regional centre in Bangalore.
The second eminent step that the UNESCO took in this direction was the holding of a seminar on the development of public libraries in Asia in Delhi from October 6-26, 1955. It was the first international meeting on this subject to be organized in an Asian country. On the whole, the seminar was a great success for the library profession in India.
Another UNESCO seminar which had far reaching effect on library profession in India was the “Regional seminar on library development in South Asia”. It was held in the University of Delhi library from 3-14 October 1960. The most significant achievement of this seminar was the “grading of staff”, “salary scales” and “status of librarian”.
Besides these, the UNESCO honored the Indian librarians by inviting them to advice on various library projects meant for the member country. The prominent among those are Dr. S. R. Ranganathan, B. S. Kesavan, S. S. Saith and a few others.
Indian National Commission is the official agency of UNESCO, the National Information System for Science and Technology (NISSAT) in Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) is the focal point for UNISIST (PGI) and is also the coordinating centre for ASTINFO programme. NASSDOC of ICSSR is the focal point for UNESCO supporting APINESS programme.

5. Conclusion: The libraries as we understand today start developing from nineteen century onwards. By the end of nineteenth century, all the provincial capitals as well as many of the district towns, especially in the three presidencies (Bombay, Calcutta and Madras) had so called public libraries. Even princely states such as Indore and Travancore-Cochin had public libraries in their capital. However, the masses in general did not take full advantage of these institutions until the start of the twenty century. The Connemera Public Library which was established in 1860 can be termed as the 1st public library in India and in case of academic libraries; the credit should goes to the Calcutta University which can be termed as the first and oldest university library that was established in British India.

How to Cite this Article?
APA Citation, 7th Ed.:  Barman, B. (2020). A comprehensive book on Library and Information Science. New Publications.
Chicago 16th Ed.:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. Guwahati: New Publications, 2020.
MLA Citation 8th Ed:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. New Publications, 2020.

Badan BarmanDr. Badan Barman at present working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science, Gauhati University, Guwahati-781014, Assam, India. He is the creator of the LIS Links ( - India’s most popular social networking website for Library and Information Science professionals. He also created the Open Access Journals Search Engine (OAJSE) (, UGC NET Guide (, Assam Archive ( and LIS Study ( website.

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