The new year promises to be a hopeful one for the iconic Hardinge Library in Old Delhi with plans afoot to revamp the historic institution through digitisation of rare books and restoration of its century-old building.


Authorities are also endeavouring to put this city landmark on a tourism map, besides reviving it as a hub of socio-cultural events.  "The library in its heydays hosted regular socio-cultural programmes, besides being a treasure trove of historical books and manuscripts. For last several decades, that glory has faded, and now we are trying to revive it, with poetry recitals, mushairas and other events," Shobha Vijender, Member Secretary, library's management committee, told PTI.


The library began its journey in 1862, when its collections were kept in the Lawrence Institute in Old Delhi's Town Hall. In 1916, it was relocated to the current building in Chandni Chowk and was renamed the Hardinge Municipal Public Library, after Viceroy Lord Hardinge.  Post-Independence, 'Hardinge' was replaced with 'Hardayal', after freedom fighter Lala Hardayal. And, currently it is known as Hardayal Municipal Heritage Public Library. However, it's popularly knows as Hardinge library.


The grey iron racks hold a collection of 1.70 lakh books, including 20 books that are among the rarest in the world besides, around 8,000 rare books. Its rare 356 manuscript collections include Mahabharata in Persian.  Lack of funds had cast a shadow over the heritage institution, as many rare books in fragile condition became vulnerable for want of preservation. Besides, the 100-year-old building housing the library also lost its sheen due to lack of upkeep.


"Now, we want to restore the building, and project it as a city landmark, as well a tourist point. And, so we have commissioned INTACH to prepare a DPR (detailed project report) on its restoration, which should be ready soon.  "We want to preserve our legacy in print through digitisation and preservation and return the building its glory through architectural restoration," she said.  Vijender says, libraries in the West are considered a tourist attraction, and, "therefore, we want to bring this library on the tourism circuit as we attempt to make it a world-class institution."


Seeking to popularise the library and celebrate the centenary of the building, the institution held several programmes in December, including an exhibition on its history and the way ahead, a music concert, theatre and mushaira.


"A stamp has been released on the library. We also have made a documentary on the library showcasing its glorious journey over 150 years. And, we are also working on a souvenir encapsulating it," she added.