Home Dehradun “Parade Ground to Lansdowne Chowk”- Impressive journey of ‘The Doon Library’

“Parade Ground to Lansdowne Chowk”- Impressive journey of ‘The Doon Library’

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By Arun Pratap Singh

Dehradun, 26 Apr: Professor BK Joshi has been the Founder Director of perhaps the richest library in Dehradun, The Doon Library & Research Centre. A former Vice Chancellor of Kumaon University, he is currently the Advisor to this library founded by him. The library had a rather humble beginning but it has been an impressive as well as interesting journey till the present. Dr BK Joshi has come up with a monograph and history of the Library, titled ‘Parade Ground to Lansdowne Chowk – The Making of The Doon Library & Research Centre, which has been published by the institution, itself.

This monograph traces the origins of the idea of such a library, how the seed was planted and its founding. It mentions not only the journey of the establishment of the library but also its achievements, as also brief biographies of the great souls behind its founding and its transformation into a well equipped and modern institution. It also mentions how the library was first set up at the Parade Ground and, later, shifted to the new and modern building just near Lansdowne Chowk. The monograph is divided into seven chapters, namely A seed is Planted, A New Dawn, Light at the End of the Tunnel, The Library and its Outreach Activities, Looking to the Future; Opportunities & Challenges, A Post Script: A parallel story from the past and Members Speak, besides some annexures and the Prologue.

Professor BK Joshi

The prologue describes the journey of the library as a Short Journey but a Long Distance. The idea for a good library had occurred to Dr Joshi in 1998 when, after retiring as VC of Kumaon University, he moved to Dehradun.  As a social scientist and researcher, he felt the need for a good library in Dehradun, which could aid the research of scholars and social scientists. However, as mentioned in the first chapter, ‘A Seed is Planted’, Joshi first discussed his idea with his friends, well-known writers Allan Sealy and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra in 2005. The trio then called on the then Additional Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand, M Ramachandran, who agreed with the idea of a government supported library and even suggested that it could be set up in the proposed Cultural Complex that the government was planning on the land that had become available after shifting of the old jail in Dehradun to Sudhowala. Among the ideas, it was also suggested that it be made accessible to the general readers, as well, so that it could become a real public library. However, the proposed cultural centre never became a reality and, therefore, this idea had to be dropped. During the interactions Dr BK Joshi had with the senior government officials regarding the library, which included M Ramachandran and DK Kotia, the then Secretary, Secondary Education, the officials placed the condition that Dr Joshi play a leading role in founding the library and in steering the new institution. Though reluctant to take up the leading role due to age, as he was already 65 then, Dr Joshi had to agree to this condition and became associated with the governing body of the library as its Honorary Director. Dr Joshi was then also a member of the Second State Finance Commission.

The library was finally registered as a society in March 2006. The first meeting of the Governing Body was held on 27 March under the chairmanship of M Ramachandran, who had by then become Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand. He suggested a government grant of around Rs 20 lakhs to enable the library to start functioning. However, the then Secretary, Planning, Amarendra Sinha suggested that a corpus of at least Rs 5 crores be provided. However, as it was a big amount, Ramachandran questioned Sinha how this amount could be arranged at the end of the financial year, to which Sinha said he would take care of it. The meeting was over without any idea where the corpus would come from. Everyone was sceptical of Sinha’s claims. However, Dr Joshi recalls that Sinha proved true to his word and managed to arrange Rs 3.20 crores as corpus with the help of Secretary, Finance, IK Pande who was also a member of the governing body of the library. Since this money had to be deposited in the bank and only the interest thereof could be utilised for running of the library, another grant of Rs 10 lakhs was made available for the library to start operating.

Dr Joshi narrates that to find an available place proved to be a major challenge. Several properties were considered including one on New Road, but prohibitive rents forced the governing body to drop the idea. After great persuasion, an old barrack was finally chosen at the Parade Ground for the library and the UP Rajkiya Nirman Nigam renovated the building. By the time, library was being set up, SK Das had become the Chief Secretary and he took great pains to see that it was established at the earliest. Joshi mentions that Das, having served in the past as District Magistrate of Dehradun, had an attachment for the city and was eager to see the library project become a reality.

The then Chief Minister, ND Tiwari, was invited to inaugurate the library on 8 December, 2006. Although the library then did not have many books, some books were arranged from the Education Directorate to give it the appropriate look. It was suggested that the CM be urged to announce a grant of Rs 50 lakhs for the library, so that he could announce one of Rs 25 lakhs. Instead, the then Chief Secretary urged Joshi not only to welcome the CM on the dais but also ask for a grant of Rs 1 crore. To the utmost surprise of everyone present that day, Chief Minister Tiwari announced a grant of Rs 2 crores as well as topping up of the corpus fund to make it Rs 5 crores. In the monograph, Joshi is naturally quite generous in his praise for Tiwari for this gesture. Tiwari expressed the desire that the library become a national level institution. Joshi sees that gesture as an example of a visionary leader.

Joshi, in a later chapter, writes about the evolution of the library and points out that rules were amended periodically to suit the requirements that emerged over time. One major amendment in the rules was to restructure the library into two functional units, a public library and a research centre. Joshi goes on to describe the initiatives taken by the governing body and even government officials to raise funds from various sources, including some CSR funds. Former Chief Secretary SK Das continues as Chairman of the library, with Chief Secretary Dr SS Sandhu as President and former Chief Secretary N Ravishankar as Director. The monograph also remembers some of those who contributed to the enrichment of the library and its activities such as the founding librarian, KC Saxena, who passed away in 2014, and Rajen Brijnath, who has also passed away. The contribution of some of the present and past officials who were proactively involved in the enrichment of the library like former Chief Secretary Utpal Kumar Singh and former District Magistrate Ashish Srivastava is also mentioned. The book also reminds its readers about the upcoming requirements of the library and the challenges. It is a very interesting account of the journey of a public library beginning from an idea to its actual establishment and transformation.