All my professions have taken me to Goa, from visiting a manufacturing plant to recruiting management graduates and luxury train travel. This time, it was my Book Reviews blog that brought me to Goa. I was there to speak at the Publishing Next conference. The venue was the Krishnadas Shama State central library of Goa. I was excited about the venue as I have never seen such big events being hosted by a library. And it sounded just perfect place for a publishing conference. When we landed at the library it was a pleasant discovery to see a public library that is so well maintained and is such a live and lively place. It is one of the best Digital Library of India.
Krishnadas Shama State Central Library, Goa
There are modern art installations inspired by Mario Miranda welcoming you at the entrance. There are many interesting sculptures scattered around the well-designed public digital library. A huge contemplating face sculpture made with recycled tire rubber stood out and lots of us were seen posing with it. There were other sculptures across the big hall that had curious seating benches in the shape of a Swastika. Conference and lecture halls with all modern amenities made it a useful place for small to medium gatherings.
They do not allow footwear inside these halls, I guess to maintain the carpet flooring. But it was such a delight to be able to move around bare feet for two days and I think it brought in a bit of informality into the gathering. The cafeteria also murals of Mario Miranda. There was an exhibition going on of Konkani Books.
I discovered that this is the oldest public library in India dating back to 1832. It had seen many changes of hands as the state itself went through changes. The present building is fairly new, though. Curator of the library Carlos Fernandes was kind enough to take me for a tour of the facilities. While he passionately showed me various floors and sections of the library, I discovered why this library is such a living space unlike most other public libraries in India. He was a man so passionate about the place, he knew where each book was and who the regular visitors are. The pride in his voice was overwhelming. They have used technology intelligently to increase the usefulness of the library. Each book here is RFID tagged, another first for a public library.
The rare book section has books from 16th CE including the first book ever printed in India. Many manuscripts and a great deal of Indo-Portuguese literature, complete collection of newspapers ever published in Goa and a fair section of books in local language Konkani. All the rare and old books have been digitized and only digital copies are made available. An internal conservation lab conserves the originals.
As I stood in the rare book section, I felt I am standing in the richest place on earth. Constitution of India, an original copy signed by the founders of India is proudly displayed for anyone to see. All state libraries have a copy of the same but how many of them display is a question. I liked the fact that this public library is named after the 16th CE Goan author who wrote Krishna Charitakatha and other stories from Puranas and not a politician.
I saw many school children getting down from a school bus and visiting the public library. Standing in the queue to exchange books, reading, browsing and roughly spending an hour or so at the library. We met the ex-CM of Goa Smt. Shashikala Kakodakar sitting and reading old newspaper archives and was eager to talk and tell us the political history of Goa. I was told that it is not unusual to see the present CM walking in at times. Children’s section was colorful and had stuffed toys along with books. We could see children running around and enjoying themselves. Here and there, people were sitting and talking to each other. Local participants in the conference told me that they visit the digital library regularly.
Is this not how public space should be? Actually used by the public, a common place for them to meet and enjoy the common heritage?
Maybe it is time to re-start a libraries movement in India.
Recommend you to read the following travel blog on Places to visit in Goa.