The Library Services in this State have reached the grass-roots level. There are public libraries down to the village level which are sponsored by this Department. There exists a three tier library system in the districts namely, Rural/Primary Unit/ Area Libraries, Town/Sub-divisional Libraries and District Libraries. Besides, there are thirteen Libraries which are exclusively run by the State Government. The State Central Library, which stands as the apex library of the State has seen a number of modernizations section for the visually impaired. Besides the State Central Library, the Kolkata Metropolitan Library and Uttarpara Jaikrishna Public Library have been given the status of Grade “A” library. In every library separate corner for the neo-literates have been provided so as to encourage reading habits. The libraries, State or State sponsored, also provided services like Career Guidance to the readers which are a shot in the arm for the younger people of the State. Besides the public library system there is a network of Community Library-cum-Information Centers(CLIC) which have been established in those Gram Panchayats where there is no Government or Government Sponsored Library.
For organizing and administering Library Services in the State, there is a provision of West Bengal Public Libraries Act, 1979, for constitution of a State Library Council which has already been re-constituted vide G.O.No 909-MEE/Sectt. Dated 28th December, 2011. The State Library Council in this State plays an immense role in the decision making process related to the Local Library Authorities (LLA) in all districts has also been re-constituted in the year 2011-12 in terms with provisions contained under the W.B Public Libraries Act, 1979.
The Department is also playing the nodal role in coordinating organization of Annual Book fairs in every district. During 2011-12 Book Fair in all the districts under the auspices of the respective Local Library Authorities were organized in order to create awareness amongst the people for promoting the habits of reading. The Book Fair in Darjeeling hill areas was hosted for the first time in nine years.
Public Library is considered as people’s university. Public Libraries act as centre for all round socio economic and cultural development which in turn leads to a source of quality education of the common people. The library also is a place where people of all age group might visit irrespective of caste, creed, religion and gender. First Public Library was established in the year 1836 in undivided Bengal. Presently West Bengal has a well-developed network of Public Libraries under the control of Department of Mass Education Extension & Library Services. After several attempts West Bengal Public Library Act was enacted in the year 1979.
Presently there are 2480 Public Libraries in West Bengal out of which, there are 13 Govt. Public Libraries, 2460 Govt. Sponsored Public Libraries and 7 Govt. Aided Public Libraries. Out of 2473 Govt. and Govt. sponsored Libraries there are 1 State Central Library, 1 Special Library (i.e. Uttarpara Jaikrishna Public Library), 26 District Libraries, 236 Town / Sub division Libraries and 2209 Rural/ Area/ Primary Unit Libraries. The Department is in the process of improving Library Services through different traditional and innovative activities.
The Department has taken up following works to achieve the goal.
- Infrastructural Development :
Infrastructural Development by way of sanctioning grants for construction, repair renovation of Government and Government Sponsored Public Libraries as well as for purchase of books, furniture, supply of drinking water in the libraries etc. are a major thrust area of this Directorate.
Special thrust has also been given for the development of the public libraries situated in the Jungle Mahal, SC/ST dominated area, Minority area and economical backward areas of West Bengal
- Modernisation Programme :
An endeavour to modernize public libraries in the State was initiated by networking through a Wide Area Network (WAN) linking the apex State Central Library and the 25 District Libraries through creation of a Web Portal. Total 796 Libraries have been brought under the purview of computerization programme. Training has been imparted to the Librarians of those libraries. 35,416 rare and old books have been converted into the digital format. 35,416 books are now available in the digital archives of the portal (www.wbpublibnet.gov.in).
- Implementation of the Matching Schemes of State Govt. and Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF) :
State Govt. has been collaborating with Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation towards implementation of the matching schemes of the Foundation funded equally by the State Govt. and the Central Govt. These schemes include construction of Library buildings, storage and display of books, purchase of books, mobile library services and organization of workshops / seminars, Book Fairs, computerization of State Central Library, District Libraries and other Public Libraries. Efforts have been taken to implement schemes this year.
- Organization of Book Fairs in the Districts :
Book Fairs are being organized in the Districts every year under the supervision of Local Library Authorities. These fairs give an opportunity to the book lovers and libraries at the district level to get books of their choice at their door steps.
In the year 2020-2021, Book Fairs have been organized as per Central Schedule i.e., the schedule prepared by the Department.
- Career Guidance Centers in different libraries :
The State Govt. created Career Guidance Centers in State Central Library, 26 Govt. and Govt. Sponsored District Libraries, and 232 Town / Sub divisional Libraries and have been getting special grant for this purpose.
The Career Guidance Centres are becoming very popular and helpful to the users i.e., the unemployed youths. They get various information from books, journals,newspapers, periodicals etc. for appearing in the competitive examinations and interviews.
- Financial Assistance to Non-Govt. and Non-Sponsored Libraries :
State Government renders financial assistance to the Non-Govt. and Non-Sponsored Libraries, Libraries under Non- Govt. and Non-Sponsored Educational Institutions run by different Minority Communities in recognition of their services rendered to common people.
During 2019-20, Total Rs. 3,68,50,000/- (Rupees three crore sixty eight lakh fifty thousand) only was allotted and released to 1474 Non Govt. Non Sponsored Libraries/ Libraries under Non Govt. and Non-Sponsored Educational Institutions run by different Minority Communities of West Bengal in the State.
- Community Library cum Information Centers in the districts :
Community Library cum Information Centers (CLICs) were established in those Gram Panchayats where there is neither a Govt. nor a Govt. Sponsored Library. Till date 319 CLICs have been established.
From 2012-13 the Honorarium to the Community Library Organisers has been increased to Rs.1500/- from Rs. 800/- per month. Presently 198 CLICs are functional.
- Purchase of books in language other than English and Bengali :
Supply of books to public libraries in Nepali, Santhali, Urdu and Hindi languages has been undertaken by the Book Selection Committee for selection of books under the scheme of State Govt. and matching scheme of Raja Rammohan Roy Library Foundation. Librarians have been instructed to purchase such books from District Book Fairs.
- Human Resource Development :
The State Govt. is at present conducting Certificate Course in Library and Information Science at People’s (Janata) Govt. College, Banipur, North 24 Parganas and People’s(Janata) Govt. College, Kalimpong for the educated unemployed youth and deputed candidates working in the Govt. & Govt. Sponsored Libraries.
- Convergence with School Education Deptt. :
The Directorate is implementing a Convergence Scheme with School Education Department keeping reference books for school children in libraries and to cater services to the school children. Schools situated within 1 km of the libraries were taken into consideration. So far 1462 libraries were tagged with 1600 schools (Secondary and Higher Secondary) consisting of 57040 books, thus benefitting 53245 students.
- Model Libraries :
The idea of Model Libraries was conceived in the year 2016-2017 with the help of Indian Public Library Movement(IPLM),a frontal organization of NASSCOM. The training process in 85 model libraries has been almost completed. After completion, the Model Libraries will act as Role Model for other libraries.
- Cyber Corners:
One Cyber Corner at State Central Library with 15 Computers, 3 Kindles and 2 Tabs with internet facility has been catering needs of the local people/ readers.
- Special initiatives:
- “Read Your Own Book” section in State Central Library where anybody may bring his / her own book and read in the library has been functioning in a more organized way and space under “Read Your Own Book” has been increased in the said library. Efforts have been taken to open “Read Your Own Book” section at some other libraries.
- Initiative has been taken for a drive of new membership under “Boi Dharo Boi Paro Prakalpa” in all the Public Libraries in the State. The members has been classified into four types:
- Children Member ( upto 18 years age),
- General Member ( 18 years to 60 years),
- Senior Citizen Member ( above 60 years),
- Global Member ( Distinguished Person). So far about 3 lakhs readers have been applied for new membership.