There are places where one feels small and insignificant. One of ten feels this way when entering a very large library such as the Tribhuvan University Central Library (TUCL). Surrounded by the innumerous racks, shelves and thousands of books does make one feel rather small, given the fact that within these walls lie unfathomable knowledge. TUCL has a fascinating collection of books on any subject. Even the most expensive books like “Chaityas” by Gutschow appeared on the racks soon after publication. The most comprehensive books on art, culture and any subject you can think of can be found here.
Tribhuvan University Central Library, established in 1959 is regarded as the best large, modern library in Nepal. The British Book Development Council in 1969 has rated it as one of the best libraries in Asia. “It is the largest in terms of manpower, collection and equipment,” says Bina Vaidya, deputy librarian who informs that currently the two-floored library holds more than 300,000 books. It has a total staff of 70 people, 12 professors, 3 administrators, assistants and other blue-collar staff. All the students of the university can become members with a minimum fee. Private membership includes payment of Rs100/- a month along with a refundable deposit of Rs1000/- for foreigners and Rs/- 500 for Nepalis.
Besides the general collection, there are volumes of special collections in the library. One can find rare books like “ Tibetan Painting Scrolls”, by Giuseppe Tucci, “ With a King in the cloud”, London, 1958 by Erika Leuchtag and many more. In the micro filing section, 40,000 rare books, periodicals, and journals has been computerized. One rare set is the “Singh Collection” which consists of 5000 volumes of books donated by General Singha Shamsher J.B.R in 1976, who wished his books and furniture be given to the library after his demise. Among his collection are rare books like “ Journey to Kathmandu” by Lawrence Oliphant, “Gurkhas” by C.J Morris. There are textbook sections with numerous volumes. A Nepali journal collection is a special collection of books of any language published in Nepal. Books and personal collection have been donated from the Asia Foundation, Japan foundation from the United States as well. Master of literature, Late Maheshwor Regmi’s collection includes hand written books as well. Some other rich collections include United Nations collection, which has the publications of eleven International organizations like World Bank, IDRC, IBRD etc. Kali Prasad Upadhyaya collection, Parasmani Pradhan collection are some of the other rare collections. There are entire volumes of encyclopedias on numerous subjects. Massive books on art depicting the works of masters like Rembrandt, Van Gough, and many more, rare books on religion and collections of books by scholars like Dr. Harka Gurung, Dor Bahadur Bista and others, makes the collection priceless. One can spend days within the library, just reading
The ISBN (International Standard Book Numbering) system has authorized TUCL as the National Coordinator Library and TUCL has numbered 11,000 books so far. TUCL is also nominated as a national coordinating agency for INASP (International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications) and PERI. There are two ways of retrieving books; one is the traditional catalogued card system where a book can be searched by title, author or subject. The other is in a database-computerized system that was initiated in 1995 after IDRC Canada brought a project in 1993. Since July 2002, the IT unit has been providing full text database, website database, services for blind users and email and Internet services. The library provides membership on request to foreigners, NGOs, INGOs as one of its basic duties. Apart from the collections, discussion room, halls, current journals and a whole section of bound newspapers, maps and manuscripts can be found here.
“65 percent of the books are gifted and the rest is managed by petty cash. It has been three years since no budget has been given for new books,” says Bina Vaidya. As we learnt more about the knowledge that lies preserved on the racks and shelves, volumes after volumes, I felt inspired. Silence is maintained here, and the good thing is that there is ample space in any department where one can comfortably sit and delve into the past, present and future through these books.
Thomas H. Huxley once said, “Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever or whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing. Follow suit, because sometimes it pays to be a silent child in front of ample collection of books and drown into the depth of knowledge.”
The TU Central Library may be far from the city, but it is worth the trouble to travel all the way, as there is so much to gain. The vast information that lies within can be had for a few hundred rupees. It’s a bargain.
For details: TUCL, Kirtipur
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