Shhh! There's nobody in the Parliament House library

Shhh! There's nobody in the Parliament House library

The silence at the 55,000-sq. m. Parliament Library provides a solace from the din. At 1.30 p.m. during the session days, any noise in the library cannot disturb the readers --- because there is not a single visitor to the architectural milestone created by Raj Rawal.
"There are not too many visitors to the library," an employee in the deserted room said, after finishing a long chat on the phone.

The employee, who didn't want to be named, said there are only 10-12 MPs - of the total 790 members (Lok Sabha 545 and Rajya Sabha 245) - who are regular visitors.

"I don't see more than 10-12 MPs using the library regularly, and occasionally another 40 members do visit," he said, adding it is a "sorry state that MPs don't make use of such a huge treasure trove of resources and books."

The library, according to records at present, has over 1.27 million volumes of books, reports, parliament debates, gazette notifications. It also receives 150 Indian and foreign newspapers and 587 periodicals in English, Hindi and other Indian languages regularly.

It also has a press clipping service catering to the latest information needs - if there are any - of the MPs. It has relevant and up-to-date news items, editorial comments and articles on developments in the legislative, political, economic, socio-cultural, scientific and technological fields.

The Parliament Library - currently the second largest in the country after Kolkata's National Library - is set to become the biggest in the country with hundreds of books and periodicals being added every month. The library complex was built some six years ago next to  Parliament House.

The library division also brings out its own monthly publication - Parliamentary Library Bulletin.

"I find it extremely useful," said Brinda Karat, Rajya Sabha MP from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), who the library staff says is among the few regular visitors.
"In an emergency during the middle of a debate, the library has references available on anything under the sky," Karat said.

But then why are MPs not making use of it? Karat laughed it away with, "Sorry, I cannot comment on that."

"Each MP has his or her own ready reference. And may be they are borrowing books through their staff," the CPI-M leader said, still laughing.

If MPs have their own libraries then why did the government build a Rs.200-crore architectural marvel? Karat and other MPs had no answers.

And nobody from the library staff and the Lok Sabha secretariat was willing to speak on how much the daily upkeep of the library costs.

"I don't know, but the electricity bills, computer and other maintenance and staff salary runs into lakhs of rupees per day," said an official.

But, the official said, missing books from the  library was a "problem".
"Many MPs don't return their books on time. But after an Election Commission directive, it is mandatory for all MPs to pay their dues if they fail to return the books," he said, refusing to give details of defaulters.