Book Review: Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Libraries

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By Prof. B. Ramesh Babu

“Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) has been on the agenda of the Indian Industry for quite some time now. The private sector generally has been more active in CSR than the Government and Public sectors, and the situation is changing slowly. Most of the big Indian corporations such as the Tata’s and Birla’s are already engaged in CSR either under charity or philanthropy. The concept of CSR is finally coming out of the purview of “doing social good” and is fast becoming a “business necessity”.

This new approach to CSR is gaining ground and many corporate houses are realizing the benefits they get in business by extending help to their workers, local community and society at large. There are many corporate companies and voluntary foundations in India who are doing commendable work in education, health, environment and energy under CSR.

This book ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Libraries’ stresses the need for incorporating Public Libraries into the gamut CSR so that there is an overall socio-economic development envisaged by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs in their Voluntary Guidelines for CSR. While education has been given a ‘front seat’ in CSR, it can also be extended to public libraries, because public libraries are considered as “social institutions” providing basic information for social, economic and cultural development of citizens; and to create skills for livelihood for local communities.

The book reiterates that Public libraries play a vital role in disseminating existing knowledge and promote the creation of new knowledge; but this very important public library system in India in general and Andhra Pradesh in particular, has almost become “defunct” and lost its erstwhile glory. There are many reasons attributed to this stagnation; the foremost being lack of adequate funds and support from the Government.  Although there are various acts, policies and institutions for the promotion of public libraries, they are in an “irreversible state”. The present public library system needs a total revival and transformation for which we need to adopt a different approach and resources to “bridge” this gap.

Several authors in the book state that the National Knowledge Commission has created awareness as well as a debate among the scholars and planners on how India can move towards a knowledge society. The book provides some kind of a ‘roadmap’ towards achieving overall socio-economic development of communities through CSR by creating or improving Public Libraries in and around the industries. CSR is a wonderful concept that can help public libraries to stand on their feet. Just like corporations adopting villages and schools, they can also adopt local public libraries and serve the community at large. CSR mainly focuses on grassroots approach through public-private partnerships for a sustainable development. It is felt that Public libraries, if any are given the required inputs, resources and infrastructure, can become useful in helping the country to become a Knowledge Society.

The book is a Festschrift volume dedicated to PSN Murthy, former Library Manager Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, who is known for introducing new techniques in libraries and also a forerunner and pioneer in helping Public Libraries in and around Visakhapatnam through CSR. He also demonstrated that CSR can help Public Libraries through many of his initiatives through Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. The book is an excellent primer for corporate houses who are looking for new ideas and avenues to share their profits for public good and betterment of the society. The Society for the Promotion of Public Libraries needs to be commended for their efforts in bringing out an excellent publication on a new concept of CSR applied to public libraries.

Edited by Dr. Velaga Venkatappaiah, Dr. M. Koteswara Rao, and Mr. D. Murali Dhar; Allied Publishers (Pvt.) Ltd, New Delhi, India; 2011; Rs. 350/-

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