Today, Nepal marks its fourteenth Library Day. Commemorating the institutionalization of library with librarian staff headed by Pandit Kedarnath Jha on 15 Bhadra 1869 BS, Nepal Government decided to observe Library Day on every Bhadra 15 (August 31) since 2008 AD.
King Girwanayuddha Bikram Shah, the great grandson of Nepal's unifier king Prithvinarayan Shah, had instituted that concept with designated staff some 206 years ago.
Library Day ignites enthusiastic flames of reading culture in all over Nepal. However, in Itahari, a transit city of Province 1, this day dawns a memory worth forgetting. Readers, writers, poets and other library frequenters have brutal memory of the tragic death of a once-famous library in the town.
The antagonist to the tragic end of the library is none other than people's representatives themselves.
Dharanidhar Dahal, a noted journalist, researcher, literary figure, anthropologist, social and cultural activist, floated the concept of public library in Itahari some 28 years ago in 2050 BS. His concept got economical and emotional boost with the financial support of John Paul, a Luxembourgian philanthropist came in his assistance.
Paul gave his nod after Itahari's local organizations like Itahari Literary Group led by Dharanidhahar Dahal, Nepal Red Cross Society led by Krishna Prasad Poudel and Raja Club led by Balkrishna Karki wrote a joint letter to his organization on 2 Asahr 2055 BS.
On 16 Ashar 2055, there was tripartite agreement between contractor, engineer and coordinator to build the three-story built at the heart of Itahari square, just in front of Municipality premises.
The building was mainly as library with multipurpose activities. It was named 'Cultural Centre'. The ground floor included secretariat, first-aid center and the multi-media seminar hall. The first floor housed library, multi-media meeting hall and sports gallery for youth. The second floor housed sections of stitching, tailoring, electric fixing, painting and English language learning classes.
When the library building was built within months, Dharanidhar Dahal donated some two thousands books of him to the library.
Just after the completion of the building, Itahari Municipality pressured local organizations like Itahari Literary Group, Nepal Red Cross Society and Raja Club which were meant to the major stakeholders from the day one. However, Itahari municipality insisted on handing over keys of the building.
''I had given the keys to my father'', remembered Gyanendra Dahal, the son of Dharanidhar Dahal and also an active member to institutionalize the building. He added, ''My father caved in to the pressure of the mayor (Sarbadhwaj Sanba). He dropped the key on the table of mayor.''
''Municipality betrayed the local organization and took it forcefully'', rued Dahal. He said his father laid the building's foundation stone. However, the inauguration was done by Madhav Kumar Nepal, the then Secretary General of CPN (UML). ''The central utilization of the building was bypassed thereafter.''
The more trouble was exerted to the public library after the arrival of new local government after the local elections of 2074 BS. Itahari Sub-Metropolitan City Office emptied the last remaining library hall and started to use that space for administrative purposes.
The building's ground floor has been used as shelter for nearby Area Police Office. Likewise, other floors are used for vote-counting and administrative purpose only.
Laxmi Gautam, the deputy mayor, had promised to establish another separate building for public library. This, however, is not materialized so far. Most of the books are either stolen or damaged owing to severe neglect, said Badri Bhikhari, a poet and also a campaigner of restoring the old library building in its own initial state.
''It is shame for a big city like Itahari to kill a vibrant library established from the sweat and labor of many civilians and support from abroad'', Bhikhari criticized, ''This is troubling.''
GB Gazal, a Ghazal writer from the city, also has same opinion. He said it is a duty and responsibility for the people's representatives to work for the greater good of the public. ''Destroying a public library and converting it into administrative building occupying library space putting valued books in tatters is not something we do expect from them'', said Gazal, ''All ward chairs, and mayor and deputy mayor are responsible for this pathetic state of public library in Itahari.''
Dewan Kirati, a poet and an entrepreneur of Itahari, said public library is a must-have thing for any city. ''If we go for foreign cities, it is library where we can have a clear picture about the history, culture and the future of the city'', said Kirati, ''But, in Itahari, we are sad to loss our library.'' He said it would be a wise idea to digitize all books which are in tatters.
Sonu Jayanti, a theatre director and the cultural activist of Itahari who heads Kalalaya, a theater in the city, also have concern about destroyed library.
''A city is not just the collection of concrete structure, it is also a soul with cultural, linguistic, literary legacies which is only possible to found in the places like public library and cultural complex'', said Jayanti, ''Sadly, we lost both of them. We the city of more than two lakhs folks is compelled to have personal library only. We had public library and cultural building. Now, we do not. This pains me.''
He said it must be the first priority to revive the lost heritage of the city. For this, he emphasised, there needs to be public pressure and governmental support from both local and provincial governments.
Source: National News Agency Nepal