Public Libraries and Development Planning in Pakistan: a Review of Past Efforts and Future Needs

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Public libraries and development planning in Pakistan: a review of past efforts and future needs Syed Jalaluddin Haider
Department of Library and Information Science, University of Karachi Background Pakistan as an independent country came into being on 14 August 1947 as a result of the partition of British India. It covers an area of 796,095 sq. kms, with an estimated population in 1997 of 144 million and a growth rate of 2.9 per cent. Two-thirds of the population is non-urban, with agriculture as the main livelihood. Politically Pakistan is a federation of four provinces (Punjab, Sindh, North-West Frontier, Balochistan) and the Federal Capital Area of Islamabad. Administratively the provinces are made up of divisions, which are divided into 91 districts, themselves consisting of smaller subdivisions (Tehsils). The urban area in each district is limited to one or two towns; in smaller towns the local administration is managed by municipalities, and in larger towns by municipal corporations. While Urdu is the national language, English continues to be used in higher education and for commercial, legal and official business. Pakistan’s literacy rate is one of the lowest in the world: 37 per cent for all persons aged 10 and above, 49 per cent for males and 24 per cent for females, 28 per cent in the countryside and 58 per cent in urban areas. Literacy is defined as the ability to write one’s name in any of the indigenous languages or in English. The book trade in Pakistan is poorly developed, and the volume of publishing is small. Both the National Book Council of Pakistan and the National Book Foundation have failed to become operational. The Pakistan National Bibliography indicates that the volume of publishing ranges between 860 and 1525 items per year (Hanif, 1989, p. 6). With the exception of textbooks up to Grade 12 all instructional and research materials are acquired by libraries from the US or Britain. Modern library service began in 1915 with the arrival of Asa Don Dickinson at the University of the Punjab “…to organize the University library and to teach modern library methods to the librarians of the Punjab” (Khurshid, 1969, p. 198). In subsequent years a number of local and provincial library associations were established, and in 1930 the Modern Librarian was founded in Lahore by the Punjab Library Association. Following independence, however, librarianship was largely neglected in the face of more pressing national priorities; perhaps the only development of note was the government’s

Public libraries and development planning 47
Refereed article submitted 20 August 1997 Approved for publication 28 November 1997

Asian Libraries, Vol. 7 No. 2, 1998, pp. 47-57. © MCB University Press, 1017-6748

Asian Libraries 7,2


establishment in 1949 of the Department of Archives and Libraries charged with administering the development of libraries. It was not until the 1956 introduction of a postgraduate diploma course in librarianship at the University of Karachi that library development began in earnest. This was followed in quick succession by establishment of the Pakistan Library Association and the Pakistan National Scientific and Technical Documentation Centre (both in 1957), launching of the Pakistan Library Review (1958), promulgation of the Copyright Ordinance of 1962, introduction of a master’s programme in library science at the University of Karachi (1962), publication of the Pakistan National Bibliography for 1962 (in 1966), and designation of copyright depositories in 1968. The pre-independence development of public libraries It is against this background that one must understand the history of libraries in the subcontinent, which can be traced from the first half of the nineteenth century, when a number of so-called “public libraries” were started as subscription libraries in larger cities with the support of European expatriates. Examples include the General Library, Sukkur (1835), Liaquat...
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