The British Council is gearing up to reopen its library to the public from July next year in view of “growing public demand”, 12 years after it was closed down here.
“There has been significant public demand that the British Council Lahore library once again become part of the social and intellectual life of Lahore,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced here on Thursday. The re-opening of the library would also give the general public increased opportunity to access the British Council, he said.
He said the library would offer a vibrant calendar of events throughout the year. “It’s not about learning but about bringing people together, something which we should do as countries committed in friendship,” he said. He also announced the establishment of a cultural centre in Karachi in 2014.
The initiative is part of the British Council’s “planned expansion” in the Punjab, said officials, adding that they were exploring plans to establish similar libraries in other parts of the province.
The British Council closed public access to its library in 2002 in view of both security concerns and a growing focus on the internet, said Arzu Daniel, the acting Punjab director at the British Council.
Daniel told The Express Tribune that there was a huge public demand to re-open the library. “The internet cannot be a substitute for books,” she said. “Also, the library offered that space to create linkages between the people of the UK and Pakistan.”
A large number of books in the library when it was closed in 2002 were handed over to local schools, NGOs and other libraries, Daniel said. “We believe in equal opportunity and as such the library will be inclusive and not an exclusive project to accommodate only the ‘elite’,” she said, adding that the British Council was already offering a variety of online learning resources.
The Council is yet to establish a subscription system for the library. Officials said that they could not state exact details regarding the number of members or the books being arranged for the library, but the library space would not just be dedicated for books and online resources, but also for training sessions, lectures and even art exhibitions.
Antony Jones, the programmes director at the British Council, views the library as “a cultural space where people go through books, online resources and also connect with one another through interaction”.
He said the British Council was a cultural organisation and as such the library would have a “British angle”, but one which he said offered an “attractive space” for peoples of both countries to connect.
While the library had been closed the last 12 years, the British Council had still been active in Pakistan, he said. “We have been focusing on big projects particularly in areas of education, art, English language training and youth,” he said.
He said they were conscious that there was a whole generation of people in Lahore who had been associated with the library in the past. “We are hoping to re-create this,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.