If you are a Feluda lover then you would be familiar with the interesting character Sidhu Jyatha who used to collect and preserve old newspapers; like Microft Holmes was to Sherlock, Sidhu Jyatha was the ultimate guide for Feluda. In this age of the internet, information is readily available at the click of a mouse. But, if you land in a soup while searching for some news published in 19th or 20th century, the internet would not come to your rescue. For that you would need to visit a library.
The reading room of the National Library in Kolkata is soon going to be digitized and will host microfilms of all old newspapers, digitised books and e-resources. The reading room also known as Old Newspaper Reading Room, at Esplanade is the only remnant of the historic Imperial Library which got shifted to Belvedere Road, the main campus at present.
The Newspaper archive
Archives of several old newspapers are present in the archive. These include: Bengalee (1863), Friend of India (1838), Hindoo Patriot (1854), Englishman (1837), Amrita Bazar Patrika (1886), The Statesman (1923), Liberty (1929), Mussalman (1906), John Bull (1823), Advance (1931), Anglo-Indian Recorder (1912), Indian Observer (1871) and Indian Mirror (1883).
With passage of time and improper maintenance, the conditions of these old papers have deteriorated and have to be handled with great care. They are going to shift the entire stock to the main campus at Belvedere Road.
They will be microfilmed to preserve them permanently and sent back again to the proposed hub. Shifting has already started. Dr ARD Prasad, professor and head of Documentation Research and Training Centre (DRTC), Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore will be providing the technical expertise.
Around 20,000 books in the library will be digitised and made available to the readers. Undoubtedly, this centre will prove to be a great resource for readers and researchers in the coming years, apart from helping the preservation of rare and important documents.