It goes to the credit of Maharaja Ranbir Singh who founded the first ever library in Jammu region of J&K kingdom in A.D. 1879. His son Maharaja Pratap Singh, imitating the example of his father, laid foundation of first State library called SPS Library in Srinagar in 1898. In 1904, the Department of Research and Publication was established and in 1919, the SPS Library was separated from the SPS Museum and brought under the control of SPS Library had a modest beginning yet annually titles were added even in small number and in 2014 when the terrible flood caused extensive damage to this library, it housed 40,000 titles and SPS, Jammu had 60,000 titles. Indeed this is a small number of books, yet these included some rarest of rare books particularly written about the State.
The devastating flood of 2014 caused extensive damage to the library and whatever remained safe was transferred from Lal Mandi to the present site of Maulana Azad Road in Lal Chowk area. The library has been literally facing chequered history. Fourteen years ago in 2003, a plan was drawn for giving the city of Srinagar a new library, commodious and modern in literal sense. After some parts of the work were completed, its further progress was arrested and work was suspended. We have learnt from officials that the work had to be suspended owing to paucity of funds. Unfortunately, paucity of funds has been the bane of many exciting projects in the State and not only the SPS Library complex. Besides the paucity of funds three years were waited in getting the court stay vacated. Construction work of the project was allotted to the JKPCC. The work on the project by JKPCC – the executing agency – began back in 2003 and that time the estimated cost was Rs 17 crore. But the cost of the work has now escalated to Rs 31 crore from Rs 17 crore.
The Minister of Public Works is very exuberant about the project which will be spread over 55,000 square feet and the building will be of six storeys (including ground) and it would have various sections including reading section, manuscript section, senior citizen section, children section, scholars’ section and general public section.
Any sensible and patriotic citizen will be happy to know that a modern library is coming up in Srinagar and at a central place. However, the most important thing in that the project should now be completed at the earliest possible and thrown open to public.