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Pages flipping through time

Established in 1883, the Athaide Municipal Library in Mapusa still attracts readers, both locals and outsiders alike.
NT BUZZ finds out how they have managed to
keep up with modern era

ANNOUSHKA FERNANDES | NT BUZZ

Set amidst the busy street of Mapusa City, the red and white building of Athaide Municipal Library still stands tall. For over 136 years, this library has catered not only to the educational requirements of people in and around the city but also to those who have visited the place from different parts of the world.

Established on November 12, 1883, the Athaide Municipal Library situated at the Mapusa Municipal Council was set up under a committee initiated by Joaquim Azavedo.

Named in memory of Fr Francis Athaide, who dedicated his life to imparting education to Bardez youth, the library came to be known as the Athaide Biblioteca (Athaide Library).

The library was handed over to ‘Câmara Municipal de Bardez’ on April 9, 1897 and the building thereon housed the library and municipality of Mapusa. It was after liberation in 1968 that the Municipality Act came into force thus making the library a part of the Mapusa Municipal Council.

One will not find the library vacant as there is always someone, lost in reading what they love. Infact, the library still draws a number of people with 6724 members and houses a collection of 25398 books which includes all kinds of books and journals in English, French, Portuguese, Konkani, and Hindi. English and Marathi language books dominate most of the sections in the library. The library has 5,000 books in the Portuguese language, and two books in the French language. Besides this there are numerous workshops conducted at the library.

The library contains various sections that include the periodicals and newspaper section, the reference section, the circular section and the children’s corner, thus looking after everybody’s needs.

It subscribes to 24 newspapers and 56 magazines, local, national and international, while covering a wide range of subjects such as entertainment, politics, sports, social science, health, information technology, economics, cookery, and automobiles. The reference section consists of books that aid school, college, and university students with their assignments and other academics needs, while also benefitting those who are doing research work.

The oldest book is an official gazette that was published in 1887. Earlier known as the Bulletin, it can only be found at the Athaide Municipal Library, while other libraries and archaeological departments in the state use it for reference.

While locals mostly come in to read books and magazines in the English and Indian languages, visitors from Mexico, Portugal and other places usually come in to the library to read the centuries old gazettes and books that are written in Portuguese and French, spending months at the library, researching these books and gazettes. “Locals usually only look at the old gazettes for property matters. Sometimes their ancestors property is registered and if found in these gazettes they act as a sales deed,” says librarian Nyaneshwar Parsekar.

Parsekar admits that taking care of the books is not an easy task. “It is very difficult to maintain the books that are from the 1800’s but we remove them every fortnight to check if the books are in a proper condition,” says Parsekar, admitting that if the books are used then only will they last longer.

In fact, during the Portuguese regime the books would cost around `1.“These books are very old and should be well taken care of, one cannot put a price on them as they are priceless,” says Parekar.

Twelve years ago on November 14, 2007 with the backing of Raja Ram Mohan Roy Library Foundation, Kolkata, a children’s corner was opened up in the library, where various books for children were set aside along with educational CDs and computers, thus fulfilling the needs of children.

The library stacks up books through a quarterly period each year, getting books from various bookstores in the state including Broadway Book Centre. They also stack up books from different states such as Pune. The library gets its funding from the Municipality fund to buy these books.

Through changing times, online sales, and availability of books on a digital platform have affected the library, Parsekar believes that holding a book physically and flipping through its pages is a different feeling altogether as compared to using a digital book.

The library has moved along with times by achieved the status of an e-library and is automated with e-granthalaya, a digital agenda for library automation, which is useful for in-house activities of libraries and provides various online member services along with networking from the National Informatics Centre. Athaide Municipal Library is the only library in Goa to that is connected to the cloud server of NIC, Delhi.

The library has members from different age groups coming in, from children to youngsters and even the elderly, the oldest members have been coming into the library since the 1980s. Architect, Mohan Tendulkar says: “The administration is what gets people in, all sorts of information is available at this place, the librarian, Nyaneshwar is very cooperative and so is the entire staff.”

The library will soon be handed over to the Art and Culture Department after the approval, and will come to be known as the District Library. Once under the Art and Culture Department, the library will be renovated and a separate corner for senior citizens along with a computer corner will be opened.

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