Swami Vivekananda Library in GTB Complex near New Market allows only 8-10 people to sit in the library.
Swami Vivekananda Library in GTB Complex near New Market allows only 8-10 people to sit in the library.

Bhopal: The pandemic has affected almost every sector of life, be it economic, social or educational. People have developed a sense of fear among them and are restraining from public gatherings. The virus has made people more hygiene conscious.

Accounting to the current status of the virus, government has taken various key decision for citizens' safety, which has its pros and cons too. Recently the government has made important announcements regarding the reopening of schools. Exams are being postponed and future of students is now at stake.

Corona pandemic has affected footfalls in the public libraries in the city by 90%. And the reason is that the people are fearing in visiting public places and managements have put several restrictions.

The Maulana Azad Central Library, run by the School Education Department of the state government, is the biggest public library in the city. It has over 1.25 lakh books and nearly 9,000 members.

Before the coronavirus struck, the library was full of students but it is no longer so as the library has closed its reading rooms. “We are only issuing books and accepting returns to maintain social distancing,” says librarian Vandana Sharma to Free Press. Even the members are allowed inside in batches.

The books which are returned are sanitised and replaced on the shelves after three hours. According to Sharma, about 40-50 members visit the library daily now. Earlier, its number was 500. To compensate for the closure of the reading rooms, the library has also started issuing reference books to the members. Sharma says that the resumption of the normal functioning of the library depends on the government. “Whenever we will receive the order to restart reading rooms, we would do it,” she says.

Randeep Singh, manager of Swami Vivekananda Library in GTB Complex near New Market, says that they are allowing members to sit and read but their number has been reduced from 30-40 earlier to 8-10 now to maintain social distancing.

He says that after lockdown, the library was reopened on June 8. The number of visitors gradually grew to about 60%-70% of the pre-Covid times. However, following the spike in the Covid-19 cases post-Diwali, it dipped again.

According to Singh, it is mandatory for all the visitors to wear facemasks, undergo thermal screening and sanitise their hands. The books that are returned are kept for five hours in a dropbox fitted with four 40-watt incandescent bulbs to sanitise them and then returned to the shelves.

The Vivekananda Library, which has a collection of around 22,000 books with over 1,400 members, was known for holding literary events including book launches and discussions on its premises. These activities, however, have been put on hold. Earlier, the library used to acquire around 30 new books every week but now the number is down to 15. “Recently, we have added the latest books by Barack Obama, Ramchandra Guha and Chetan Bhagat to our collection,” he says. “We are hoping that things would normalise by February-March,” says Singh.

Yet, another public library, Iqbal Library has seen a more than 90% drop in the number of visitors, says Rasheed Anjum, secretary of the library. The number of members has fallen from 250 to 25 and the number of visitors from 35 daily to 5. The library has more than 70,000 books, people, however, are not coming because of corona fear, says Anjum.

“I have taken membership after Diwali. I am coming here to prepare for the MP PSC examinations. I feel safe here as all Covid-related norms are being followed”, says Lekha Sharma, studying at Swami Vivekananda Library.

“I am preparing for the Civil Services Examination. I have taken membership only a couple of days back. I study here from 12 noon to 7 pm,” says Jagdish Pandya studying at Swami Vivekananda Library.

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