Some people are sceptical about visiting libraries
Bengaluru: The Covid-19 pandemic and digitization of public libraries have taken a huge toll on the number of visitors at the State Central Library, Cubbon Park. The number of visitors has come down by about 60%.
Librarian Lokesh informed The Observer: “Earlier the library used to operate at full capacity. But now we hardly see 100 readers.” This number includes people who come to read newspapers.
As per the Unlock 4.0 guidelines, public libraries reopened in September 2020 after five months.
The capacity of the library is 1,000 users at a time. During pre-Covid times, around 500 people visited the library. The number has declined to 150-200.
Suman S, a regular visitor to the library for a year, shared: “I have observed a tremendous decline in the number of readers.”
Despite a decline in the number of new Covid-19 cases in Bengaluru in the past few months, people have been sceptical about visiting public libraries.
Though authorities have followed Covid precautions such as sanitizing the library and books, only a few show up, Lokesh said.
Bharat, a UPSC aspirant who has been using the library for two years, said he had returned to the facility just three before. He didn’t visit the library for six months because he doubted the Covid-19 protocols followed by the administration.
There hasn’t been any Covid case recorded at the library, an employee responsible for sanitization said.
Owing to the pandemic, many readers have preferred to avail of the online public library service introduced on February 26, 2020.
According to Department of Public Libraries data, 23.79 lakh people signed up for the online service during the pandemic. Around 10.9 lakh ebooks and 5.49 lakh videos have been accessed so far. The number of registrations from Bengaluru Urban district was 2.37 lakh.
“To provide easy access to readers, the government brought the idea of digital libraries even before the pandemic. Nevertheless, because we had a pandemic, it allowed readers to visit websites,” said Sarojamma M, deputy director of the department of public libraries.
Fareen Azimi, a reader who began visiting the library on March 1, said: “Even if we have digital libraries, we don’t get the same environment at home as we get at a library.”
The low number of visitors to the library has affected vendors in the area. They said their earnings had declined on account of this.