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“A good librarian has a task cut out for him”

1 January, 2021 14:31:39
“A good librarian has a task cut out for him”

One speech of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore that will always be etched in memory is the one he had written for All India Library Congress, that was delivered on his behalf in December 1928. He was then sixty-seven years old and explored the theme of libraries to a great extent.

He says:

One of man’s main enemies is his propensity to be an accumulator. Once he starts collecting he gets intoxicated by the sheer number of his collections, forgetting the principal goal. Most libraries are infected by the fad to accumulate. Almost three-quarters of the collected books are not useful – the rest one quarter gets submerged by the volume of the total number. Ironically, big libraries take pride in their big collections. Instead, they should seek reputation in their ability to put their books to use.

The total number of words extant in our language can be put into two baskets --- dictionary and literature. It is interesting to note that much of the words in big dictionaries are seldom employed. But they need to be there. On the other hand, words of literature are lively --- each is indispensable. One must admit that literature is more valuable than dictionary.

Same thing can be said about a library. Success of the library is not measured by the books that occupy the shelves but by those which are variably perused, every day. Often a librarian gets carried away by an impressive array of collection --- he forgets to put in the thought and hard work to make the library user friendly, the reason being by amassing something one can easily impress the common mind.

Ordinarily, libraries carry booklists that are on routine display. But the lists are usually listless and unattractive. But the dividing line between good and average libraries is in the ability of the former in extending a warm welcome to the reader. This is what we call modesty which is the hallmark of great libraries --- not in size but in character. It is not the reader who makes a library --- it is the library that makes a reader.

If we remember this then it is evident that a good librarian has a task cut out for him. This job does not end by simply cataloguing the books in the shelves --- he must have a feel for the books. 
           
(Inspired by A Random Walk in Santiniketan Ashram by Sushanta Dattagupta and other related publications on Santiniketan)

Story Tag:
  • Rabindranath Tagore, library

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