Mumbai: Sydenham management college alumni to rebuild gutted library

Updated: Dec 26, 2016, 11:52 IST | Pallavi Smart

Christmas began in tragedy at the Sydenham management college, as the pride of the institute — its library — was gutted in a blaze. College alumni donated of Rs 5 lakh to arrange for new books

No one was present in the library when the fire began in the wee hours of Sunday. All that could be salvaged from there was the rare collection of Harvard Business Review journals. Pics/Shadab Khan
No one was present in the library when the fire began in the wee hours of Sunday. All that could be salvaged from there was the rare collection of Harvard Business Review journals. Pics/Shadab Khan

Christmas began in tragedy at the Sydenham management college, as the pride of the institute — its library — was gutted in a blaze. By the end of the day, however, the college also witnessed the generosity of Christmas spirit as Sydenham alumni instantly came to the rescue with a donation of Rs 5 lakh to arrange for new books so students can continue their academics.

The fire is suspected to have been caused by a short circuit. Fire control received the call at around 5.30 am, after which four fire engines and seven water tankers were sent to the library at Sydenham Institute of Management Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship Education (SIMSREE).

A senior official said, “By 7.30 am, the fire was brought under control. However, the books and furniture inside library was flammable material, so there was more damage.”

College officials estimate that about 80% of the books have been irreparably damaged. Not all is lost, however.

The fire brigade got the call around 5.30 am and the blaze was brought under control in about two hours
The fire brigade got the call around 5.30 am and the blaze was brought under control in about two hours

Christmas miracle
For one, no one was hurt in the incident; the students are all away on Christmas break and because it was in the wee hours of Sunday, no one else was there when the fire broke out. Equally miraculous is the fact that the institute has managed to salvage its most precious collection of Harvard Business Review (HBR) journals, which were housed in special vaults (called compactors) that kept them safe from the flames.

Dr Manoj Bhide, director in charge of the institute said, “It was a high-tech library with 16,500 books on management education. While most of the books are destroyed, we are glad that our rare books, which were kept in compactors, are safe. These HBR journals are assets for any management institute. Although these books got wet, we are glad that after drying, they are still in readable condition.”

“The library is certainly a very important section of any institute, and this fire is a huge loss for us. But we are confident of getting support from the alumni, the university, as well as the government in restoring the library,” he added.

Trial by fire
The college still has tough times ahead. Students will return from holiday on January 3, when they will be expected to get back to their grinding academic schedule. Without books, however, the students will be handicapped.
Moreover, since it is a government institution, restoring the library could take a long time because of all the paperwork and official procedures to follow.

In this trial by fire, it is the Sydenham students who saved the day. While current students rushed to the campus to help out as soon as they heard about the blaze, the Sydenham Institute of Management Alumni Association (SIMAA) too have pitched in with a much-needed donation of Rs 5 lakh, so the college can at least arrange for the crucial books that students will need.

Meanwhile, Mumbai University has also extended its support by opening its library to SIMSREE students. Aashish Pawaskar, assistant professor at SIMSREE and one of the directors of SIMAA, said, “Mumbai University will now allow our students to use the Churchgate campus library whenever required until our library is restored.”

Alumni speak

Ashish Bhasin, founding chairman of alumni association
‘It is an unfortunate incident and the alumni have decided to help the institute. Our primary aim is to create a makeshift library so that students are not inconvenienced. The college is going to give us a list of books urgently required. Once the repairs begin, we will extend further support’

Govind D, member of the alumni association
‘Being a government institute, there will be a process to follow before the repair work can finally be done. But when students get back to institute after the break, they cannot be left stranded. To make books available for them from day one, we are immediately donating Rs 5 lakh. Several of our members are already writing to us to express their willingness to help fund the restoration work as well’

Documents damaged
In the next few days, a report will be prepared on how much information was lost in the blaze. “We are working on collating the loss. We have a software in which we had kept record of which books we had. The report will be ready in a few days,” said institute director Dr Manoj Bhide. Students, however, are worried because the library also housed some of their personal documents, like certificates and marksheets. “The library did have some original documents belonging to students. But we are going to help the students in getting these back from the concerned authorities,” Bhide added.

Lectures postponed
Prathik Shetty, chairperson of Sydenham management association, said, “All students have been given complete information. While the institute is on break, lectures scheduled for Monday and Tuesday have been postponed until after the break. Students will be given further information on when the college will reopen.”

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