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New life for old books

(from: The Hindu)

New life for old books

               Date: 22-09-1997 :: Pg: 26 :: Col: a

               Acquisition of a lamination machine has
               greatly helped the Tamil Nadu Archives
               to preserve rare and old books, says
               Ramya Kannan.

               What does an Asian-African safari have
               to do with the massive Gothic red
               building in Egmore?

               ``Some years' travels into Asia and
               Africa'' (1638) is the oldest book in a massive
               collection in the Tamil Nadu Archives library to get a
               new look. Once brittle and crumbling to bits at a mere
               touch, the crisp pages of the book are now available to
               the public for reference. At least 400 other books bear
               testimony to the innovations that have breezed into the
               Tamil Nadu Archives library.

               Lamination of books is only part of the TNA's efforts
               at renovating the Archives and making it more user
               friendly. ``It is only a small step we have taken, but
               we hope it will make a difference,'' says Ms.
               C.K.Gariyali, Commissioner of Archives. ``The primary
               objective of the Archives is to preserve books, then
               only comes research. So we preserve all the books and
               records in our collection,'' the Archives librarian,
               Mr. Namasivayam, adds. There are nearly 2.25 lakh books
               in the library at present, and new books are added
               periodically. A proposal to buy a lamination machine
               was made in 1993 and was approved by a government order
               in 1997. Eventually, two lamination machines were
               purchased - one in March and the other in August this
               year. Lamination of books started then and books from
               the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
               are being preserved thus.

               ``We have an enormous task before us, considering the
               number of books to be laminated. Everyday a few books
               are taken up,'' says Mr. Namasivayam. The advantage
               with lamination is that the books can be preserved for
               ages since plastic sheets are used to hold the pages

               In addition to lamination, leather binding is also done
               and titles are embossed at a cost of Rs. 150 a book.
               The only disadvantage that might accrue out of
               laminating books is that it goes against the dictum
               that all books must be reversible - they must be
               brought to their original form after the embellishments
               are removed.

               ``The library does not have any provision to weed out
               old and rare books and so we do not destroy even a
               single sheet,'' replies Mr. Namasivayam to queries
               about whether any books or records were destroyed. Even
               in the records section, only copies of original
               document are destroyed, according to the Commissioner.
               Sometimes there are more than five copies of every
               document and GOs and these take up a lot of space. So
               they have to be got rid of. Rare documents relating to
               the East India Company's governance and records
               relating to land ownership are preserved carefully even
               today and serve as reference points for both the
               Government and researchers.

               A further amount of Rs. 5 lakhs has been sanctioned for
               the reprint of old and rare books. Old paintings have
               been reproduced at high cost and copies produced.
               Though there are no facilities for direct fumigation of
               the record rooms and the library, there is a mass
               fumigation chamber wherein a large number of books and
               records can be fumigated at a time. It is also an
               ongoing process since every book or record must be
               fumigated once in six months. There are also facilities
               for dry and wet de- acidification.

               Recently, the Archives assisted the U.S. Library of
               Congress to microfilm rare Tamil books published during
               the first half of this century. Arrangements are also
               on to put the Archives on the Internet and prepare a
               computerised database of the records and books
               available with it.

               A course on ``Record Maintenance and Preservation'' is
               being conducted by the Archives' Preservation
               department for State Government employees and for
               private organisations at a fee.

               The entrance fee collected for using the services of
               the Archives has been raised from Rs. 25 to Rs. 100
               with effect from July 1997 and the Deposit amount
               collected from M.Phil. and Ph.D. scholars is Rs. 500 -
               refundable after a copy of their thesis has been
               submitted to the Archives.

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