The State Central Library is quite possibly a treasure trove. "Possibly", because we can't be sure. "Treasure trove" because you pretty much need standard issue filmi
treasure hunter equipment to get anywhere inside its cavernous spaces. Grit and determination, maps, torches, a marked tolerance for dust and critters, and a svelte starlet (or star, as the case may be). The svelte starlet is for effect, and for helping you pass the time, should you find nothing worthwhile (a most likely eventuality).
This enormous hulk of a building towers across the Musi, perhaps glaring enviously at the younger and much better kept Salarjung Museum
. The structure was completed in the 1930s, and it seems as though the last time anyone bothered to sweep the grounds and dust the bookshelves was when the Quit India movement was a gleam in the Mahatma's eyes.
At the entrance, a reassuring sign says "Internet is working", as though if it weren't for the worthies at the SCL, the rest of the world would be in the dark about this crucial nugget of information. Pass indoors through the vaulted portals (yes, it is the sort of edifice that demands words like "vaulted", "portal" and "edifice"). At the entrance you are required to deposit your bag with the sketchiest security desk, and switch off your cellphone. This is so that you don't the disturb thousands of patrons who are nowhere to be seen.
The important stuff about the SCL:
1. It's open from 8am to 8pm (closed on Thursdays).
2. Membership costs Rs. 150 as deposit.
3. You are allowed to borrow 2 books at a time from the lending section for up to 15 days. However (get this), the total value of the books cannot exceed the deposit amount.
4. The textbook section is open from 8am to midnight. Apparently no one has bothered to check on the reading habits of our youth since the time of Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan.
5. There is a photocopying facility in the basement, and if you are really nice to the staff, you can actually get stuff copied.
6. There is a swank (for the surroundings) net centre in the basement, open between 10:30am and 5:00pm at Rs. 10 per hour of surfing.
The really important stuff about the SCL: don't stand or sit directly beneath the fans. Some are liable to come plummeting down on your head. We got this tidbit directly from the staff and are passing it on, proud that fullhyd.com can contribute to your physical well-being while filling the gaps in your education.
The snide remarks apart, all the basic infrastructure we normally associate with libraries is actually present. The Dewey decimal system rules, and there is a card index of authors and titles. There are books and manuscripts in English, Telugu, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian. They claim that they have most local periodicals and newspapers from the 1940s. The reading rooms are large and well-lit, and much to our surprise, there were about a dozen people actually earnestly engaged in reading and writing.
On the flip side, we tried finding a book using the card index and failed three times out of three. And we noticed Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" nestled amongst books on Carnatic and Hindustani music. In the lending section, the lights work only randomly. So if you're studying the Naatyashaastra
, you can knock yourself out, but if it's the Holy Roman Empire that floats your boats, tough luck.
In the final analysis, visit the SCL only if you've exhausted all other options, or if you're prepared to spend hours and shovel your way through tons and tons of unorganized paper. The SCL is a gigantic example of a What-Might-Have-Been. With the right kind of funding and leadership, there is no reason why this decrepit excuse of a library can't turn into a clean, attractive, well-appointed house of knowledge.