Dyal Singh Library, which is home to nearly 200,000 books, is being reorganised so that the members can have easy access.
A digital list of the books, their dates of issuance and return, is in process for the facility of the readers. This will save their time and energy. Besides, keeping track of books shall become easier.
The library building does not seem to have been renovated for a long time. Its inside structure remains as it originally was. Built in 1908 by one of the most enlightened feudal chiefs of the Punjab, Sardar Dyal Singh Majeethia, Dyal Singh Trust Library’s splendid construction sets it apart.
At its main entrance, you find two beautiful verandahs that are used as reading rooms. The main entrance leads to a hall and two spacious rooms one of which is used as the children’s section and the other as a cultural forum.
The three-storey library boasts three main halls with well-stocked furniture and bookcases. The books to be found are on a wide variety of subjects that include industrial engineering, geology, medicine, mathematics, religion, economics, public administration, law, psychology, accounting, history and literature.
The library gets all the newspapers, national and international, English and Urdu, and also magazines and journals.
Talking to TNS, Chief Librarian Faqirullah says the library plans to enlist all the books to enable the members to check their availability on their computers wherever they may be at.
“They [the members] would just need to note the book reference number they want to borrow and show it to the library staff who shall pick out the book and hand it over to them,” he says. “This shall spare the members much hassle and also save their time.”
About the selection of these books, Faqirullah says, “The main characteristic of the library is that it boasts more than 90 percent textbooks which are selected on the recommendation of the VCs and principals of different colleges and universities.”
Books are also purchased on the demands of the library members. If a member needs a book which is not available in the library, he can simply fill a requisition form issued by the library and the library will purchase the required book.
The library has a separate room where the donated books are kept, says the library official.
An elderly member of the library, who claims to be a regular for the past 23 years and is also a member of the Quaid-e-Azam Library, vouches for Dyal Singh Library’s “good collection of Urdu and English literature books.
“Sardar Dyal Singh himself was a literary person,” he relates. “He was an Urdu and Persian scholar, and the act of building this fine library could be expected from such personalities as Sardar Dyal Singh.”
Another member sitting in the library says it “does not provide an alternative to load shedding. Every time there is a power shutdown, the whole library plunges into darkness, making it difficult for us to read.”
A library staff, on condition of anonymity, says: “The UPS at the library can light only 4-5 bulbs in the main hall. In summers, the situation gets worse because the fans would not work. The members are hesitant to visit the library in the season.”
However, there is a water filtration plant installed in the library premises where the shopkeepers and locals on Nisbet Road get clean drinking water.
Dyal Singh Trust Library may not be so popular among the people of Lahore, particularly those based in newer localities, as compared to other libraries such as Quaid-e-Azam Library, Punjab Public Library and Children’s Library, but it is in no way a lesser facility. In fact, it boasts some features that the contemporary libraries don’t.
Its research cell has published dozens of books. It also has Punjabi, Hindi and Gurmukhi Cultural Forum. It has a record of microfilmed newspapers since 1878. There is a large archive section of newspapers in the library and hundreds of handwritten books.
It houses a statue of its founder, Dyal Singh Majeethia, and also a copy of Sikh Holy Book Granth. There is a newspaper reading room, children’s section, women’s section, text section, a computer section and a separate hall for researchers.
Contrary to the Quaid-e-Azam Library, Dyal Singh Library issues books to its 2,000 adult and 500 child members. The library issues a card to its members for borrowing books. A book is issued for a month. The disabled living out of Lahore can borrow a book by post. Reference books, journals, rare books, newspapers and handwritten books are not issued.
The library recognises four categories of members — general students, medical students, lifetime members and children. No educational qualification is required for membership. The annual fee of a member is Rs50. Rs400 is charged as security fee which refundable. Lifetime members are exempted from this fee.
General and lifetime members can get four books at a time, the students three books, and the children two books.
Over three dozen workers are in charge of maintenance of the library under the supervision of Chief Librarian Faqirullah. The library is run by Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB). These days, the library staff is in trouble because the board has told them they are not the employees of the board. Therefore, they are not entitled to house rent subsidy and medical facilities which they enjoyed till a few months ago.
According to a library official, Sardar Dyal Singh Majeethia owned a large number of properties in Lahore including Dyal Singh Mansion, Shahrah-e-Quaid Azam, Majeethia Hostel, presently Haji Camp, Muslim League High School, Government Girls High School, Dil Muhammad Road, LDA Complex, ETPB office, office of special judge anti-corruption, Court Street, Nicholson Road, and Ram Mohan Rai Quarters, Dil Muhammad Road.
“The ETPB gets huge monthly rent from these properties but the library staff is deprived of subsidy and medical facilities,” he says.