If there was one place in Karachi known to almost its entire population as a literary treasure box up until 2001, it was the British Council Library at Bleakhouse road. A place that had been a focal point for all those who wanted intellectual satiety, closed down in the wake rise of terrorism, leaving a whole generation without access to a world-class facility. However, bookworms rejoice! Once again, the institution has opened its doors to the public, this time around, in a new place and with a new look.
In simple words, the library is an amalgamation of the classic and the contemporary. On one hand, you can find yourself lost in awe of the clean and crisp look of the library, while on the other hand the technology available throughout the place would keep you amused. In a mix of culture, technology and modernity, the library creates an everlasting masterpiece of balance. Add of all that up with the aroma of freshly roasted coffee from the in-house Neco’s Café and you’ve got yourself a day well spent.
Launching for the public yesterday, the British Council library is now situated inside the premises of the British High Commission on Shahrah-e-Iran under the intimidating barbed wires and security of the facility. However, that being said, once inside the library, one feels the complete opposite of the rather morose situation when going through so many security checks outside. After all, how can one not feel happy in a presence of more than 10,000 books from an array of genres to choose from?
Opening up after the celebratory ribbon cutting by the Governor of Sindh, Ishrat-ul-Ebad Khan, the launch commenced with speeches from the Regional Director of the British Council, the British High Commissioner, Sharmila Faruqui, and the Governor of Sindh.
Talking exclusively to HIP, the Library and Information Services Advisor, Gayle Franklin said,
“The library has opened after 15 years with a new vision. While 9/11 was a major reason, which of course heightened security issues, the library had to close down as a decision by the British Council. Now, after it’s re-launch our aim is to make it a platform to connect and to build it like a cultural center in Karachi.”
Apart from its contemporary aim to be a meeting point for discussions, the library’s introduction of technology such as electronic checkout machines ‘Bibliotheca’ is clearly a unique addition.
“We have tried to keep the technology simple. The machines are basically self-checkouts, which means there is no need for a librarian to do that for you anymore,” Franklin added.
The library, which aims to hosts various book clubs and intellectual discussions in the future, would soon start its services over the weekend for the public. Three packages are currently available. The digital access, which allows you to find e-books, magazines and an array of journals sitting anywhere in the world on your smartphone; the individual access, which lets you enjoy all the power of digital and on-ground services; and the family membership, which lets the whole family immerse in the fun of learning.
While the library has finally provided a space to the metropolis that it desperately desired, one just has to hope people once again take the opportunity to engross themselves in the concept of educating for a better future. So now, if anyone asks where were you the whole day? You can happily tell them: at the library!