In This 150-Yr-Old Library, Combination Of Staff, Heaters, Hair Dryers Are Preserving 75,000 Books Damaged In Flood

Published : 6 Sep 2019 10:14 AM GMT
In This 150-Yr-Old Library, Combination Of Staff, Heaters, Hair Dryers Are Preserving 75,000 Books Damaged In FloodImage Credits: Loksatta, The Indian Express

The recent floods in southwestern Maharashtra has not only caused widespread damage to property and life, but also left a deadly mark on the state’s cultural strand. As many as 40,000 books, including some priceless handwritten manuscripts, have been destroyed after being submerged for days in eight-foot-deep water at a 150-year-old library.

However, a combination of students in shifts, staff, well-wishers — and three heaters plus six hair dryers — have been looking after the Sangli Nagar Vachanalaya for nearly a fortnight now, saving whatever books and manuscripts possible.

This three-storey facility has 2,500 members, houses over 1.8 lakh books and documents, including over 600 rare manuscripts from 400 years ago. It is one of the oldest public libraries in the countries.

What Happened To The Library?

Nearly 75,000 books and at least 100 manuscripts, out of these, were damaged by the floods that hit parts of Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur in August.

“Most of the books were on the ground floor to enable easy access. We tried to save them as the water started entering, but had to finally leave to save our own lives,” The Indian Express quoted librarian Surekha Naik as saying.

Several books in the library are now beyond repair.

“We gave priority to the manuscripts and began to dry them with a hair dryer as there was no other way. We had one dryer at the beginning. Our appeal to members resulted in five more being used. They are effective,” said Naik. Three heaters, donated by members, are also being used.

Colleges from Pune and Sangli, including three teams of ten students each, also came down to help look after the library.

”The manuscripts relate to ancient texts, including the Vedas, Puranas, Dharmashastra, Ayurveda, Jyotishshastra, etc. It would require a miracle to save them now, considering that the paper and ink were so old,” says Mujumdar, who is a post-graduate in Sanskrit and diploma-holder in Manuscripts.

Staff at the library say that they need financial assistance to replace damaged furniture and computers. Operations will possibly resume in the next six months, following which the library will prepare a list of books that were lost and also issue an appeal for donation of copies.

The library is reaching out to experts to preserve books and also looking to take help of social organisations to fund the efforts.

In Sangli alone, as many as 7 public libraries were affected by the floods. Three small libraries were completely damaged. A loss of Rs 63.7 lakh, including Rs 39.95 lakh in Sangli Vachanalaya alone has been estimated by the district library office.

Also Read: The Water Paradox: How Earlier Drought And Now Rains Are Killing People In Maharashtra

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