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Public Library

1. Introduction: Public libraries provide service to the general public and make at least some of their books available for borrowing, so that readers may use them at home over a period of days or weeks. Typically, these libraries issue library cards to community members wishing to borrow books. Many public libraries also serve as community organizations that provide free services and events to the public, such as babysitting classes and story time.
Public libraries exist in most nations of the world and are often considered an essential part of having an educated and literate population. It fosters and provides means for maintaining individual’s individuality, helps in the progressive development of individual’s personality, and individual’s acquisition of knowhow of daily life. It believes that a good reader is a better citizen and an asset to the community.

2. Definition: A library that is open to the general public and that provides general library services without charge or with minimum of charge to all residents of a given community, district, or region and is supported wholly or in part by public funds is the public library. Public library can also defined as a people’s university where each individual begins at his own level and progresses at his own speed. Today, by public library, we mean a library with the following chief attributes-
i) Open to all without any distinction of caste, creed or sex;
ii) Free of any charge either in the form of security deposit or membership fee or with a nominal fee;
iii) Financed from public funds received by way of library rates and government grants;
iv) Supported by library legislation.
            Benjamin Franklin not only looked upon the public library as an educational institution and used it as one, but went further to define it as an institution for the diffusion of knowledge to the end that people could control their own destinies and become better citizens.
            According to Ranganathan, the public library is established out of the public fund; it serves the general public of its locality; and it is essentially a service library.
            The UNESCO Manifesto clearly states that “the public library should be established under the clear mandate of law, so framed as to ensure nation-wide provision of public library service”. In short, a public library is a free library for the public, by the people and of the public. According to the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto 1994 (Revised), "the public library acts as a living force for education, culture and information and as an essential agent for the fostering of peace and spiritual welfare through the minds of men and women".

3. Objectives: The mission of public library is to provide reading materials to people without any fee. The UNESCO Public Library Manifesto first issued in 1949 and revised in 1994 by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions on the occasion of International Book Year is a broad charter of public library goals. The purposes and objectives of the public library are described in relation to three basic concerns-
i) The needs of people who use the libraries;
ii) The need to ensure that the library is located in suitable site; and
iii) The need to provide for effective means of operating it and developing its services.

4. Structure: The public library system in India consists of the following
4.1 National Library: Calcutta Public Library was established in 1835. It was meant to serve the needs of all ranks and classes without distinction. It was opened on 21 March 1836 for the public. The then Governor General, Lord Metcalf transferred 4,675 volumes from the library of the College of Fort William to the Calcutta Public Library.
The Imperial Library was founded in 1891 by combining a number of Secretariat libraries. Lord Curzon, Viceroy and Governor General of India in the early years of the twentieth century, is usually credited with the idea of opening a library in Kolkata for public use. He found that the Imperial Library and Calcutta Public Library were not being used as expected because of limited access and lack of amenities. He decided to merge the collection of Calcutta Public Library with that of the Imperial Library, subject to certain terms. Lord Curzon bought the rights of the Library from the proprietors and later merged it with the Official Imperial Library consisting of government departmental libraries of the East India Company. The new library, called Imperial Library, was formally opened to the public on 30 January 1903 at Metcalf Hall, Kolkata. John Macfarlane, Assistant Librarian of the British Museum, London, was appointed as the first Librarian of the Imperial Library. Later on, Khan Bahadur M.A. Asadulla was appointed librarian and he continued in office till July 1947.
In 1948, one year after the independence of India, Imperial Library of Calcutta (Kolkata) was transformed into National Library (of India) through the “Imperial Library Act” (change of name) 1948 and was transferred from the Esplanade to the Viceroy’s Palace in Calcutta, namely, the Belvedere Palace. On 1 February 1953, the National Library was opened to the public, inaugurated by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. B. S. Kesavan was appointed as the first Librarian of the National Library. The Library is under the Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Government of India. Till 2019, Shri Shravan Kumar is the Director General (head of the institution) and Dr. K. K. Kochukoshy is the Officer on Special Duty of the National Library.

4.2 The Central Reference Library: The Central Reference Library (CRL) is a subordinate office of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. This institution has been curved out of the National Library in order to compile the Indian National Bibliography (INB) after the promulgation of the Delivery of Books Act, 1954. After 1970, it began to function under an independent Librarian cum General Editor instead of previous custom of Librarian of National Library working as General Editor of INB. Now-a-days, CRL functions as a separate subordinate office of the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India with its own independent position of a Librarian. CRL publishes the Indian National Bibliography and Index Indiana. Till 2019, Dr. K. K. Kochukoshy is the Librarian cum General Editor of CRL and Shri Pradip Kumar Upadhaya is the Head of Office. The aims and objectives of Central Reference Library is (i) Compilation and sale of the Indian National Bibliography which is an authoritative record for books published in the fourteen Indian Languages and English in Roman script and in respective languages and (ii) Compilation and sale of Index Indiana (in Roman Script) an index to selected articles appearing in current Indian language periodicals.
4.3 State Central Libraries: The Hindu Library at Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar islands stated in 1959, was converted into a State Library in 1974. In 1978 the Secretariat Library of Arunachal Pradesh was converted into the State Central Library. The other states are also having their own state Libraries.
4.4 Divisional and District Libraries: Most of the Districts in India have their district libraries that functions under the state libraries.
            Some other types of that used to function under the state central libraries or divisional ad district libraries are Sub-divisional/Taluka/Tehsil Libraries and Towns and Rural Libraries.
4.5 Nehru Yuvak Kendras: Nehru Yuva Kendras were established in the year 1972 with the objective of providing rural youth avenues to take part in the process of nation building as well providing opportunities for the development of their personality and skills. In the year 1987-88, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) was set up as an autonomous organization under the Government of India, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, to oversee working of these Kendras.
            In some states of India, there also to be some Jawahar Bal Bhavans that are providing different library services to their localities.

5. Library Governance and Authority: The library governance refers to the persons (or committees or departments etc.) who make up a body for the purpose of administering the library. The authority has the power or right to give orders or make decisions in the library. The public library law enacted by a state legislature forms the legal basis for the establishment, maintenance and governance of the public library. In India, the public libraries were formerly under the Ministry of Education but now it is under the Ministry of Culture.
The word “authority” implies a person having the power to do something, the power being derived from his office or character or prestige. A person having power is authorized by a competent agency / authority to carry out a certain job. The purpose of granting authority is to allow him / her to perform some kind of service by means of administrative process.
In a public library, the Directorate of Library Services or Local or State Library Authority is the library authority or otherwise a library board might be the authority. The librarian is responsible to the board. In case of a public library, where there is library legislation, it is mentioned in the library act as to who will be the library authority. But when there is no library legislation then the Director of Library Services will be the library authority.

6. Finance: Library tax/rates form the basis of financial support for public libraries in the states having library legislation. Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF) that was established by Department of Culture, Govt. of India) promotes public library services by rendering book and financial assistance to the public libraries under different schemes of assistance in collaboration with Library Department or Department in charge of Public Library Services.
National Library of India, Kolkata, Connemara Public Library, Chennai, Central Library, Mumbai and Delhi Public Library, Delhi used to receive a copy of the book published in India as per the Delivery of Books (Public Libraries) Act (1954).  The Delivery of Books (Public Libraries) Act, 1954 was not implemented in Jammu and Kashmir state. In 1956 the Delivery of Books (Public Libraries) and Newspapers Act 1954 was amended.
            National Library and Central Reference Library used to provide funds for organizing seminars and conferences by public libraries. Most of the public libraries had often been started with a donation or an endowment from the public. The local government also used to provide fund for the public library system functioning under them. In case of states that has the Library Legislation, it is defined in the legislation itself regarding what will be the source of fund for the public libraries.

7. Staff: The National Library used to have a Director General. The Director General is the head of the institution. The Librarian is called the Principal Library and Information Officer (PLIO) and he worked under the leadership of the Director General.
The Central Reference Library used to function under an independent Librarian cum General Editor instead of previous Librarian of National Library as General Editor of INB.
S.R. Ranganathan has recommended the following staff formula (Krishan Kumar, 1987) for the public library.
i) Book Section: One person for every 6,000 volumes, added in a year.
ii) Periodical-publications section: One person for every 1,000 periodicals currently taken.
iii) Classification and Cataloguing Section: One person for every 2,000 volumes added in a year.
iv) Maintenance Section: One person for every 2,000 volumes added in a year and one person for every 50,000 volumes in the library.
v) Publicity Section: Minimum one artist.
vi) Administrative Section: Minimum one library accountant, one steno-typist and one correspondence clerk.
vii) Reference Section: One person for every 50 readers using the library in a day of the year.
viii) Circulation Section: One person for every 1,500 hours for which one wicket-gate of the library has to be kept open in a year.
ix) Supervisory Section: One librarian and one deputy librarian.
The professional and non-professional staff that will be required for a public library service has been estimated by the Advisory Committee for Libraries set up by the Government of India (PSG Kumar, 2003, P.151) as follows:
i) State Central Library- One state librarian, one deputy librarian, one assistant librarian, twenty-two Non-professionals;
ii) District Library- One librarian, one assistant librarian, three professional assistants and nine other non-professional personnels;
iii) City Library- One librarian, one deputy librarian, (except in cities with a population of less than 5 lakhs), one assistant librarian (except in cities with a population of less than 2 lakhs), professional assistants minimum 2, and maximum 18 according to population served;
iv) City Branch Library- One librarian, two professional assistants and five non-professional personnels;
v) Mobile Library-Two professional assistants and three other personnels;
vi) Block Library- One librarian and two other personnels.
8. Collections: Public library should try to procure books on most of the main subject areas. It may include collection related to:
a) Culture: Its contents should be a living demonstration of the evolution of knowledge and culture, constantly reviewed, kept up-to-date and attractively presented. It should also include works on literature, art, philosophy, history, biography and topology. In promoting the culture of the community the public libraries should include works of disinterested pursuit of truth, beauty or goodness, even though it is always mixed up with other motivations such as search for social importance (knowledge is power), or for status and acceptance, or for comfort of a dream world, for the individual self-realisation.
b) Education: In facilitating non-formal education or self-education, public library should provide educational materials which include introductions or standard works on a subject.
c) Recreation: Most users of the public library read for recreation at one time or another and the provision of this kind of reading is essential.
Public libraries not only collect books and periodicals but also procure other graphic, holistic and acoustic material such as books and journals, maps and charts, microfilm and the like all designed for use. Today, public libraries have a wide array of other media including CDs, DVDs, software, as well as facilities to access the Internet.

9. Services: Some of the functions of public libraries are as follow-
a) Inspiration Centre: The public library is planned so as to become the hub of social life, a real community centre around which the daily life and habits of the people are geared. A public library can create in children a love for reading, which can lead to the formation of reading habits at an early age. It prepares people for disciplined and cooperative social life. It is the free informational and recreational institution.
b) Preserve the Record of Civilization: The public library is a necessary unit in the social set up so organized and planned as to transmit the accumulated knowledge and experiences of mankind and provides challenging and often unorthodox material.
c) Reading Circle, Study Circle: Persons with common interest are brought together by the public libraries to a reading circle. Each reading circle provided necessary facilities regarding the materials and a suitable place to hold the meeting.
d) Reading to Illiterates: Reading hours for adults who cannot read are arranged by public libraries. Once they become neo-literates the public library then take upon it to see to it that they do not lapse into illiteracy again.
e) Meeting, Public Lectures and Talks: A library organizes public lectures and talks by eminent persons and also by library staff.
f) Celebration of Festival and Events and Arranging Cultural Programmes: The public library arrange popular festivals and events in the library and arrange a drama, a puppet show, a music concert, a film show, a magic show etc. Such cultural programmes prove great attraction for the community. On such occasions a book exhibition related to the programme are also arranged.
g) Book Fair and Exhibition: At the time of talk, festival, fair, drama, etc. a book exhibition on the relevant topic is arranged. Exhibition on local history, local festivals, art, photograph and painting are also offer to attract the attention of the community.
Periodical exhibition of books which have a bearing on topical theme enhances the chances of books finding their readers. Occasional exhibitions of unused books might prove useful for the reader in getting interested in books and using them.
h) Mobile Service: Introduction of mobile library services to provide service to citizens without access to central or branch libraries has devised an interesting variety of delivering methods. For offering this service, the time for each locality is to be fixed and notified earlier.
i) Book by Mail and Telephone Request: The public library should also provide library lending service through mail and Dial a book and Dial a fact method. A public library can also think of delivering books to any home bound person on a request.  Introduction of library website is also a good form of extension service of a public library.
j) Publication: Public library just like other institution brings annual report, reading guide, library magazine / bulletin and other similar publications.
k) Non-formal Education: Non-formal education is an organised educational activity outside the established formal system - whether operating separately or as an important feature of some broader activity - that is intended to serve identifiable learning clienteles. In non-formal education one educates oneself through courses offered by the distant education mode with the help of either other methods of learning or through self study materials. The main responsibility of supporting the non-formal education rests with the public library system.
l) Education of Illiterates: The public libraries work for the education of the illiterate people in its community through the audio-visual media especially the video. It also establishes learning clubs and organizes other programmes of oral communication for educating its illiterate clients.
m) Education of Working Groups: Public libraries stock books relevant to the needs of the people engaged in different vocations in its area. By reading such books they will become better informed and better educated in their areas of work. They may be sufficiently interested to increase their work efficiency which will lead to greater productivity.
n) Education of Physically Handicapped: In recent years public libraries have provided reading materials and other documents to the handicapped readers to alleviate their miseries, have assisted the disadvantaged members of society in gaining a rightful place in society besides educating and rehabilitating them in society.
o) Informal Education: Informal education is a lifelong process whereby every individual acquires attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from daily experience and the educative influences and resources in his or her environment - from family and neighbours, from work and play, from the market place, the library and the mass media. Informal education can contribute to learning a new job or transferring skills which were not necessarily the principal skills for a previous job. These include communication, organizational and time management skills and the ability to set priorities. Sometimes only a few weeks or a month of "on-the-job training" can assist an individual to be able to perform a new job. Informal education also includes learning and specialized skill development pursued in job-sponsored orientation courses (e.g. computer training courses, project management).
p) Lifelong Learning (LLL): The whole idea of education is to stress more and more independent learning and acting. All learning activities are undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competencies within a personal, civic, social and/or employment-related perspective. The necessary implication is that the professional and vocational competence of the members must be maintained with the changing needs of the society.

10. Conclusion: In case of public library - the general public forms a major group of the library user. Public library serves them free of charge or for a nominal fee. It provides free service irrespective of status, age, religion, colour or creed, and sex. The public library system with its network of branches and book mobiles establishes an active reader contact and its aim is to reach the majority of the population who are not library users. It may extend service to the neo literates and even to the physically handicapped people.
A public library should be at a place which most citizens can frequently visit regularly on some business or other; at the same time the location should be as free from noise and other disturbances as possible so that serious study can be made.
In India, All India Public Library Association (1919), All India Rural Library Service Association (1933), Sadau Asom Gramya Puthibharal Santha, Assam are striving for the betterment of Public Library services. 

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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