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The Mass Education Extension and Library Services Department of the Government of West Bengal has been doing exemplary work for the past two and half years to reach out to the people. After assuming office in May 2011, the whole spectrum of activities of the Department received a fresh lease of life, and accordingly, it has redefined its role, redesigned its functional pattern and reworked its priorities for catering to the needs of the people across the State.
The Department has under its administrative control two Directorates viz. (1) Directorate of Mass Education Extension and (2) Directorate of Library Services. Besides, West Bengal State Literacy Mission Authority (WBSLMA), a body registered under the West Bengal Societies Registration Act, 1961, functions under the overall administrative control of the Department. The WBSLMA is set up with the object of promoting and implementing all forms of adult and non-formal education among the illiterates, semi-literates, neo-literates and others in the State through appropriate Government or Non-Government or statutory agencies sponsored or aided or funded by the State or Central Government authorities.
Directorate of Mass Education Extension is responsible for execution of the various policies formulated by the Government and is assigned the responsibilities for implementation of various programmes of the Department in a time bound manner.
At present, the Directorate is entrusted with the responsibilities of carrying out the following activities:
West Bengal State Literacy Mission Authority (WBSLMA) is responsible for implementation of the Centrally sponsored literacy programme Saakshar Bharat in nine (9) districts of the State in accordance with the policy guidelines of the National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA), GOI, and under the overall control of the Department.
Directorate of Library Services, West Bengal, through its well spread out Library network, caters to the needs of the people of the State cutting across caste, creed, sex and religious beliefs. With a rich tradition of Library Movement dating back to the days of Bengali Renaissance and strong legislative frame work, the Directorate of Library Services has 12 (twelve) Government Libraries (including the State Central Library in Kolkata) and 2474 (two thousand four hundred seventy four) sponsored Libraries Besides, there are 7 (Seven) Government aided Libraries run by Non-Government organizations with State Government’s regular financial assistance.
The central focus of the Library system of the State is not only to intellectually empower the people but also to disseminate information to the rural and urban youths so as to enable them to equip themselves for successfully competing in the stiff employment market. This apart, preservation of the rare and old books, digitization of the Library system, and modernization of the Libraries in terms of their infrastructure and facilities for the benefit of the readers and further expansion of the Library network are the major areas of activities of the Directorate.
A major thrust was given on infrastructural development of Government and Government sponsored public libraries by way of grants of construction, repair, renovation as well as purchase of books, furniture, etc. Funds to the tune of Rs. 92.46 lakh were released as financial assistance to public libraries in Jangalmahal as against Rs.12.8 lakh in 2009-10 and Rs.14.86 lakh in 2010-11. Whilst no funds had been released to the public libraries in the Hill Areas of Darjeeling during 2009-10 and 2010-11, funds amounting to Rs. 74.54 lakh were granted in 2011-12 to these libraries in 2011-12. Book Fairs were successfully organized in all districts of the State including Darjeeling where this event was hosted after almost nine years.
Among its other works, the Mass Education Extension & Library Services Department supports 49 State Welfare/ Aided Homes for destitute children and another 5 Homes for young women in distress. It has taken up extensive modernization programme of public libraries through computerization. Comprehensive training program of library personnel has been launched in phases. The vision is that State Central Library, the District libraries and the 370 towns and rural libraries to begin with, would provide information relating to the lives and livelihood of people through community information services.
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