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A Librarian Speaks...
A Librarian Speaks...
 
 
Principal Prem Singh Bajaj, Director, Sahit Sabha Library, Punjabi Bhawan, Ludhiana shares his journey with the library. He tells about the richness of the library with many rare gems. An octogenarian, S. Bajaj is all for walking with the time and shares his views on digitization of the heritage and with his association with PDL. Here are excerpts from an interview with him:

Parminder Singh: Please tell us about yourself.
S. Bajaj: I am Prem Singh Bajaj. I have worked as Principal at Lajpat Rai College, Jagraon. I have taught for 35 years, and am serving as Director at the library of Sahit Academy for last fourteen years.

Parminder Singh: When did this library come up?
S. Bajaj: The library came into existence in 1954 along with the Sahit Academy. The library was housed at the residence of the General secretaries Dr. Sher Singh and Dr. Parminder Singh. When in 1960, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan inaugurated the Academy, the library was also moved there. The space for library is still too less and we may come up with a new building very soon.

Parminder Singh: What was the thought behind this library?
S. Bajaj: The thought behind the library was to gather as much research material as possible. Enormous attempts were made to collect research work from various universities of North India such as Jammu University, Delhi University, Kurukshetra University, Panjab University, Guru Nanak Dev University and Punjabi University.

The thought behind it was to develop a research center in the heart of the state. Researchers keep visiting and take benefits of this plethora of research material available in the library. More than 500 scholars have done their Ph.D. with help of the material available in the library.

Parminder Singh: How many manuscripts, books, magazines, newspapers and other documents are there in the library?
S. Bajaj: There are in total 53000 documents including books, magazines, manuscripts, newspapers, thesis and other documents. These are mostly in Punjabi, English, Urdu, Pakistani Punjabi and Hindi languages.

Everyone associated with the library contributed to enrich the library with its contents. The first president of the Sahit Sabha Dr. Jodh Singh contributed big way in development of the library. Dr. Parminder Singh donated thousands of books. Punjabi University, Patiala donated 1500 books to the library. Dr. Harcharan Singh, the head of the Punjabi department, Panjab University, donated 1100 books. Many books were donated by other major universities like Kurukshetra University and Guru Nanak Dev University. Recently, Late Surinder Singh Kohli's personal library of more than 5000 books has been added to the library.

There are more than 1400 theses in the library. These theses are written by scholars from all major universities of North India. Some rarest of the rare theses are part of this library.

Among magazines that grace the library are Sahit Academy's own publication Aalochna, renowned magazines such as Preetlarhi, Aarsi, magazines published in Punjabi and Hindi languages by various universities. There are hundreds of manuscripts including pathar chhaapas. There are some sample newspapers which are very old. The library does not preserve newspapers, otherwise.

Parminder Singh: Are there any special books in the library that need mention here?
S. Bajaj: Yes, there are many books which can be called rare. Aatam Sudhar (Self Help and Self Culture) published in 1912, Uttam Kahaniyan by Mohan Singh Obera published in 1938, Poet Ferozedin Sharf's 1934 book Noori Darshan, Nyay Paribhasha which is probably the first law book published in Punjabi which was written by Pt. Kartar Sngh Dakha in 1929, A Punajbi Phonetic Reader by P. Graham Bailley published by London University Press in 1914, The Land of the Five Rivers (An Economic History of Punjabi up to 1890) by Hugh Keneddy Trevaskis published by Oxford University Press in 1928, The Attic Theater by A. E. Haigh published in 1889 by Oxford University. Then, there is Insha-e-Urdu, the Urdu primer published in 1896 at Lahore by Munshi Gulab Sngh & Sons. There are many other rare books such as Ladkon ki Pustak 5 - Chithi Patri by Shiv Prasad published in 1859, that was one of the initial books to inspire writing in Hindi, one of the first novels written in Hindi Pranyamadhav translated from Marathi in 1901, Punjabi Grammar with Vocabulary by Reverand. E. T. Newton published in 1898 at Ludhiana, which was the center of British activities in this side of Punjab, Punjab de Heere by Maula Baksh Kushta published in 1939, the original 1936 publication of Amrita Preetam's first book Amrit Lehran where the author's name was printed as Amrit Kaur Gyani, Khatriyon ki Tareekh by Lala Harnam Das B.A. in 1939, Drama Jehangir Noorjehan by Balwant Singh in 1927, Kisse da Namoona Miyan Mohd. Se Harfi in Urdu script published in 1895, Hanuman Natak by Hirday Ram published in 1899 and Gadar Di Goonj - 1 Deshbhagtan Di Baani 1931 reprint published from California (USA) that included verses by patriots living abroad.

The library also boasts of having the first ever thesis written in Punjabi Phonology of Punjabi and a Ludhianvi Phonetic Reader by Dr. Banarsi Das Jain which was published by Oxford University Press in 1926. There are many other old theses including one by Mohan Singh Diwana. There are a number of other important, rare, precious books and written material in the library. We have 8-10 thesis from various universities of Pakistan including those in Bahavalpur, Lyalpur, Multan and Lahore given to us by Karnail Singh.

The latest addition to the library is many encyclopedias donated by Dr. Kohli. There is one set titled Sacred Books of the East in 50 volumes.

Parminder Singh: There must be some precious manuscripts too.
S. Bajaj: We have a manuscript of Sri Guru Granth Sahib dated 1796. There is one Gurbani da Sangreh dated 1890 (circa). There are many other manuscripts too.

Parminder Singh: When did the thought come to get these digitized? Why this thought occurred?
S. Bajaj: We were planning this for more than 4-5 years. I wrote proposals for this to many friends. But there was a fear that the treasure may not get misused. I again contacted the general secretary for the same and the work finally started 3 months ago.

Despite all efforts of preservation at our levels, the books are eaten up by the worms, paper has its age and they get torn after certain period. Some of the books are in such a bad condition that they cannot be opened. Some books are too rare to lose. There are 100-200 years old books too. We came to know down the years that the best way to add to the life of this treasure is to get these books digitized. If technology is providing us with tools to increase the lifespan of these books to eternity and when the technique promises to take the digital data across the globe, what can be a better way than getting these valuable books digitized?

Parminder Singh: How did you come in contact with Panjab Digital Library?
S. Bajaj: We came to know about Panjab Digital Library (PDL) long time ago. Davinder Pal Singh visited here 7-8 years back. He enlightened us about digitization and its effects. I was personally much impressed by that meeting with him. PDL was then working with Bhasha Vibhag, Punjabi University. S. Janmeja Singh Johal was instrumental in making the meeting fruitful. The President and the Trusty also helped a lot to make this collaboration between the Sahit Sabha and PDL happen.

Parminder Singh: How is digitization work going on?
S. Bajaj: The work is going great. PDL team is very hardworking and efficient. Almost all Pathar chhapa and manuscripts have been done. 202 manuscripts have been digitized so far which include 50-60 pathar chhaapa too.

Now, digitization of rare books has been started. There books are more than 50-100 years old and there is no possibility of their reprint. So, it is better to get them digitized.

Parminder Singh: What future of digitization do you see in Punjab in particular and internationally, in general?
S. Bajaj: Digitization has immense future everywhere. Those institutions which understand the impact of digitization are all for it. Those who want to preserve the heritage for all the generations to come, and those who want to walk hand in hand with time and think that this rich heritage should reach to one and all, are more than happy with digitization. Let us hope more and more organizations and institutions become one on this.

Parminder Singh: How do you see the current scenario of libraries in Punjab?
S. Bajaj: There is an alarming fall in interest of reading among general public. Number of readers is falling day by day. But still researchers and serious students will always study and read and the old material is actually gold for serious students. So our attempt will always be to collect old meaningful material so that the readers get what they need. Earlier, people used to throw all printed, written material in waters when their elderly passed away. Now people are better informed and look for organizations that can do justice to the heritage of their elders. They seek someone who can preserve the remembrance of their elders. A gentleman recently visited and showed keen interest in getting a number of books from a library at a dera digitized. They may contact me in coming few days. Libraries and organizations need to apply a personal approach to reach people.

Parminder Singh: What message do you want to give to one and all?
S. Bajaj: We should attach ourselves to the cause of the preservation of the heritage and people related to this cause.

I am myself proud of being a student of Prof. Pritam Singh of Patiala and of being closely associated with him. His association inspired me about the importance of heritage and its preservation. We should all try to make efforts towards preservation of our heritage.

 
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