Leaking AC plant floods National Library in Kolkata, 60k periodicals ruined

KOLKATA: Thousands of priceless books, newspapers and periodicals had to be hastily evacuated from the language division of Bhasa Bhavan at the National Library on Tuesday morning after the room was inundated by water leaking from the air-conditioning plant and rainwater pouring in through broken window panes.

Though the extent of damage is yet to be ascertained, it raises uncomfortable questions about how such waterlogging happened in the state-ofthe-art building constructed a decade ago and why it was detected so late. The original building is over 200 years old.

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The inundation was spotted by Bhasa Bhawan staff at around 9am on Tuesday. “We were about to enter the language division when I noticed the entire floor was flooded.The 2,000 sq ft room was in ankle-deep water. Newspapers kept on the floor were soaked,” said a library employee, whose alarm triggered a massive salvage operation. A fifth of the contents in the room may have been damaged.
While the housekeeping staff were summoned to bail out the water, library employees formed human chains to remove newspapers, magazines and books from the floor and lower racks of book shelves. “It took a couple of hours to remove the water and restore a semblance of normalcy to the room that houses 3 lakh books.We are yet to assess the damage but I believe around 60,000 periodicals and newspapers have been damaged ,” said National Library Staff Association secretary Saibal Chakraborty .
National Library director Arun Kumar Chakraborty promised an inquiry , but blamed the central PWD. “I am in Delhi. CPWD is responsible for its upkeep. I will also look into why the problem was not detected earlier,” he said.

CPWD engineers are responsible for maintenance of the library and the AC system.However, none of them were available for any comment. Library officials said a malfunction in the AC plant housed next to the language division had caused the inundation.

Luckily, rare books and manuscripts stored in the Sanskrit section escaped damage.The two sections are considered the treasure trove of National Library . “Had the Sanskrit section been inundated, it would have caused irreparable damage,” said Chakraborty .

Chakraborty said the association had raised concerns about the poor maintenance of Bhasa Bhavan with the director several times. “Central government funds that are allocated for maintenance are not properly utilized. We had warned the director that this lackadaisical attitude could damage the library ,” he said.