Free Public Library System in India & William Borden

“There is no more ennobling thing than the reading of good books; it leads men, along flowery pathways, towards earnest and pure lives. I am doing what I can to educate my people to the stage where they can ready and appreciate great thoughts of the present and the past, and the result so far has been very gratifying.  But I would do more.  I would bring to the poor man or woman, the ordinary man of the bazaar, to the common people everywhere, this wealth of literature now only known to the educated.”

Maharaja Sayajirao III,  Baroda, April, 7, 1912

Maharaja Sayajirao III, Gaekwar of Baroda (1862 – 1939) was one of the most progressive princes of what is now modern India.  He traveled to western countries repeatedly and invited foreign specialists for the development of the State both materially and culturally.  The Maharaja introduced reforms that transformed Baroda economically, socially, and culturally.

Sayajirao chose the head librarian, William Borden, at The Institute Library to establish a free public library system in Baroda.  In 1910, Borden left New Haven for Baroda.  He created a comprehensive network of libraries, which was made up of  a state central library, four district libraries, forty-five town libraries, and more than a thousand village libraries.  The district libraries had extensive traveling systems with a Visual Instruction Branch to reach the most illiterate people.  This system reached 80% of the population within two years.

Above Image: William Borden with his Library Students in Baroda

“I determined to introduce into Baroda what we in the United States have recognized as a goal to be ultimately attained, but which we have not yet reached…What America could only dream of, Baroda could do, and in a measure has done.
-William Borden 1913

The classification system Borden created for these libraries was similar to the one he created (and we still use) at The Institute Library.  Borden left Baroda in 1913. And, unfortunately, after the death of the Maharaja Sayajirao, the library system did not continue.  Modern-day India uses the Dewey Decimal System.

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