On the first floor of the BMC headquarters at CST, a prominently placed sign stating ‘Library’ catches the eye. But peep in and the sight that greets you is not of people browsing, but empty chairs and books left to gather dust. A library that is more than half a century old is in an unfortunate state.

Less than 150 sq ft large, the tiny library is more than 50 years old
Less than 150 sq ft large, the tiny library is more than 50 years old

Although called a library, the tiny room, less than 150 sq ft in size, holds 500 reference books on a variety of subjects ranging from the Constitution of India to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, and governance to history, geography and the arts. It was built as a reference resource for municipal corporators. Most of the books are in Marathi while few titles are in Hindi and English.

Library records reveal that of the 227 corporators across the city, only a handful have ventured here since their term started in 2012. Just 50 entries have been made in the last three years. Raees Shaikh, Samajwadi Party corporator, said, “The problem is the shabby and pathetic atmosphere; the books give out a foul odour. I call for the books I need in my office on the same floor because the library needs a facelift.” But BJP corporator Shailaja Girkar differed. “The library has excellent reference material. I have been using it for decades.”

Earlier housed in the headquarters’ old building, the library was shifted to the first floor of the annexe building 20 years ago during renovation. Despite the change in location, the library hasn’t seen better days.

MNS corporator Chetan Kadam said, “It needs more books on urban issues and governance, and memoirs of ex-corporators to enhance our knowledge.” An official from the municipal secretary’s office rued how constant reminders had to be sent to library users. He added that corporators send others to collect books, a practice that is against the rules. “Several students approach us with requests to borrow books but we can’t allow it. They can use reference books, though,” he said. Municipal secretary Narayan Pathade, library in-charge, said that the BMC headquarters is under renovation and once completed, the library may be housed in a larger room.