The history of Mahmud Husain Library dates back to 1952, which was the year the Karachi University was established. The library was named after the former chancellor of KU, Prof. Dr. Mahmud Husain after his demise. The library has the status of a UNO depositary center. The building of Mahmud Husain Library is located at the center of the campus.

Resembling the shape of a huge ship, the building of Mahmud Husain Library is a hub of academic and research activities.
The building of Mahmud Husain Library is located at the center of the Karachi University campus. One of its sections that lies in shambles is home to Quaid-e-Azam’s personal book collections, Pakistan Movement archives and other important historical documents.

The sections of the building containing these long-forgotten archives are present in the basement of
the library.

The Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah section boasts Jinnah’s personal diaries, rare photo albums, old letters, posters of the Pakistan Movement and even donation records of the All-India Muslim League. It also displays bookshelves which were once used by Jinnah in his residence.

Meanwhile in another section there is a huge record of important and historical letters, newspapers, statements, books, minutes and resolutions of the Muslim League’s meetings, communication with the British Indian Government, and such other things.

This is no ordinary collection of items. The history of Pakistan is preserved in these valuable archives, which have been neglected and left to the mercy of time.

At present, the library has a collection of more than 650,000 books and a similar number of bound volumes of research and scientific journals.

“A valuable collection of rare books and manuscripts consists of about 6000 volumes dated back to 16th century and the Personal book collections of 46 Scholars, writers, and renowned academicians are also the part of the Library,” the introductory note of the library reads.

Jinnah’s personal library

After the death of Fatima Jinnah in 1967, around 1995 books along with original bookshelves were shifted from Jinnah & #39;s residence to the Mahmud Husain Library. “These books are the most important assets for the library. This collection includes those books which were gifted by authors and publishers themselves to Jinnah,” said Khushbakht, the lady who oversees the section.

Some of Jinnah’s favorite book from the collection even have his signature on them. A significant number of those 1995 books were gifted to Jinnah by his wife, Rattanbai. Other than books, the reader tickets of the British Museum which Jinnah had acquired, have also been preserved in this section. “We have stored rare photo albums, personal diaries, posters, and memorial things which were once used by Jinnah in his residences,” she said.

Section of Pakistan Movement

The Pakistan Movement section also has a very valuable collection of archives which are memoirs of the country’s rich history. These collections include books, newspapers, statements, letters, minutes of meetings, and other documents dating back to 1906 to 1974. Recently, the KU has started to digitize these archives, but the contents are not available online yet.

“On the request of researchers, we provide the content through email, WhatsApp, and USBs,” said Kaniz Fatima, the caretaker of the section.

She said that she and her team have almost digitized a large portion of the archives. However, a significant part still remains. “The scanners are very outdated, and digitization of archives needs latest scanners so that we can work fast”, she said.

The irony

These sections of the library containing valuable records of history have been extremely neglected. There is a lack of proper equipment for maintaining the humidity and temperature of the rooms at optimal levels. Owing to this, the books and other important documents have been left in an extremely poor state. If the relevant authorities take this issue up seriously and provide funds to digitize the content, the history of our country can be preserved for generations to come.

Author

Arshad Yousafzai is a Karachi-based journalist covering Education and Human Rights. He can be reached on Twitter @Arshadyousafzay

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