Thursday, July 08, 2004

India's Parliamentary Library, nice and quiet

Sheela Reddy's piece in this week's Outlook, explores the sad state of India's new parliamentary library.

The old library was just next to the Central Hall of Parliament House, and MPs and Rajya Sabha members used to go there all the time. The new building is much better -- Reddy describes it as India's "most expensive and best-equipped" library. But it's in a separate location -- so almost no one goes. There are at most 50 regular users, most of them Rajya Sabha (upper house) members. Members of the Lok Sabha (lower house), don't use the library virtually at all:

But old building or new, as both Biswas and Aiyer point out, the Parliament Library has few serious users. "There are only a handful of MPs who made good use of the library," says Aiyer. "I'd say about 50 members are serious users. Most of them are from the Rajya Sabha. This is because Lok Sabha members get caught up in local politics and very few are interested in serious debate or reading," agrees Biswas.

Which is a pity because, as Biswas says, the new library is ideal for reading. "It's more spacious, there is no noise, the books are well-organised and you can find so much material on any subject if you want to write something." Unfortunately, he adds, "few MPs have such interests."

Speaks for itself.

Fortunately, scholars can use the library in the Inter-session, but because of the bureaucratic hoops one has to jump through it is actually quite difficult to do so.


Rob Breymaier said...

I've been thinking about travel to India to study place name chanegs from a more local perspective. When I put an e-mail out to some other South Asian geography scholars I got some very discouraging replies about how awful the library systems were. Also, it was told to me that without an Indian academic to get me in the door, I'd probably never see the inside of the better libraries. A sad state of affairs indeed.

Amardeep said...


I have to admit I don't have too many connections in the big universities in Delhi or Kolkatta.

You may just want to try emailing some historians at JNU (Jawarhalal Nehru University) or the University of Delhi to see if they might be able to help. Those universities are starting to have a better online presence, so you should be able to track down some email addresses.

I myself have never used their libraries, though I gather from friends that the JNU library is a place where lots of serious research is done.

A final thought: the collections in London regarding colonial India will probably come close to those in the Indian libraries.

PhDiva said...

Based on my experience as a foreigner trying to get into Indian libraries, having letters from your university, some Indian universities and anyone else who will write one for you is always of help. Also just hanging around and being persistent can't hurt. Good luck