World Libraries

The Pioneers: Abdul Moid

Short in height but tall in spirit and ambition, Abdul Moid was born on January 20,1920, in a farmer-tiller Muslim family of moderate means, in the small Indian town of Bazidpur in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar. He was brought up in a highly religious environment. His family members (Abdul Mold's maternal grandfather and his father, Abdul Hamid) belonged to the Wahabi / Mujahideen Movement of Saiyid Ahmad Shahid and Ismail Shahid who participated in the mid-1800s fight against the Sikhs and the British government for the safeguard of Muslim rights and interests. [1] His family thus was opposed to learning English and serving the British. His early education in Sadiqpur very much grounded this hatred in Abdul Moid as well. But his ambition to make change in his life made him revolt against this hatred. He did not have enough money for the university, but a university teacher took the responsibility of supporting his education. He took his B.A. in Arabic in 1941 from Aligarh, a center of Muslim studies, but was unable to go on to the M.A.

During his stay in Aligarh, he did not take part in any of the student activities directed to promote nationalism for which the university then had a reputation in the country. Moid was a regular visitor of the university library and other libraries in the vicinity. Because of his devotion to reading and learning he was allowed to borrow books from personal collections of such scholars as K. G. Saiyidin, Ashraf Khan, and Nawab Habibur Rahman Sherwani of Bhikampur. He used to spend sleepless nights at times to finish reading books to be able to return them in the mornings. He even undertook to prepare lists of their collections in return for borrowing books. [2]

Such was Abdul Moid when he came to Delhi in 1941 in search of a job. He became tutor of Urdu language to an Englishman, but could not continue because his father advised him not to serve any Englishman. A post of Librarian at Anglo-Arabic College was advertised, and Moid was selected for it on a monthly salary of Rs.50/- (US$1.00 = Rs.3.32). The college then was the center of the All-India Muslim League, a political party that had emerged as the sole representative of the Muslims of British India.

Abdul Moid did well as librarian. During his three years' stay there he quadrupled the book collection. But the fact of no library training haunted him; so much so that in 1943 he went from that college to Calcutta University to undertake the Bengal Library Association's certificate course, under the directorship of its distinguished scholar-librarian, Nihal Ranjan Ray, who had his library training from the University College, London. Abdul Moid, however, could not complete this course because of the arrest of Ray on account of his anti-British political leanings. He later received on-the-job training in the Aligarh Muslim University where he had studied earlier.

With this professional background, Abdul Moid joined the Delhi University Library in 1945 as a library assistant. He was later appointed librarian of the Law Library at that university and thus came in contact with Sir Maurice Gawyer who in 1947 took over as vice-chancellor of Delhi University and invited S. R. Ranganathan to develop the country's first full-time degree programme of library science outside the university library. Moid registered for this course, but with the partition of the subcontinent and establishment of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, he decided to migrate to Pakistan instead. He took up a job of chief cataloguer in the Punjab Public Library in Lahore where Khwaja Nur Elahi, his colleague in Delhi University, had joined as librarian in 1948.

During his stay in Calcutta and Delhi, Moid had visited all important libraries of those two cities and had also made acquaintance with most of the senior librarians who later migrated to Pakistan. He met Khan Bahadur Khalifa Muhammad Asadullah, who was then at the peak of this popularity in the subcontinent; so much so that his departure from India to Pakistan was regarded as an end of an era in India. [3] He also knew the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan. [4] He was very well known to Ranganathan as well. Just 27 years old when he entered Pakistan, he was younger than most of the practicing librarians who stayed in Pakistan and those who migrated to this new country.

The library situation was then unsatisfactory. Government policy was not clear. Asadullah was not appointed Librarian of the Punjab Public Library, which he wanted to develop into a National Library of Pakistan, [5] and could not get a suitable job in the Ministry of Education either. Distressed and disheartened, he died on November 23,1949.

Abdul Moid came to Karachi in 1948 to take up his assignment as librarian of the Sind (now Sindh) University. Full of determination and energy, he organized the Punjab Library Association, and co-edited Modern Librarian (December 1949-July 1950). [6] In Sindh University he made a proposal for starting a diploma course in library science; a committee was constituted for this purpose but Moid left the project in 1952 to become assistant librarian at the newly established University of Karachi. He stayed at this university until November 15, 1973 (as librarian from 1964-1973, and head of the Library Science Department from 1956-1961 and 1964-1970; then professor. Department of Library Science, 1970-1973 and chairman from 1970-1972). During this period he modernized the university library. In 1955, he obtained a master's degree in library science from the University of Michigan (USA) and Ph.D. in that subject in 1964 from the University of Illinois; he was the first Pakistani to receive the degree of Ph.D. in library science. Earlier he had served as an expert member in 1954 on UNESCO's International Advisory Commitee on Bibliography. Abdul Moid was also a National Correspondent of this committee during 1950-1960. His association at UNESCO with Sir Frank Francis of the British Museum and Ralph Robert Shaw, the great American library innovator, infused in him much enthusiasm to do something in Pakistan. On return from Michigan in 1955 he found the building plan of the Karachi University Library almost finalized. He was much impressed by the then newly completed Princeton University library building which was based on modular banning. He was not consulted in the planning of the library building of his university which was to be the largest and the costliest building. He, however, vigorously pleaded for changes in the plan, only some of which were made.

Among Abdul Mold's notable achievements are the founding of the postgraduate diploma course in library science in 1956 at the University of Karachi (in the beginning it was a part time evening programme of the University Library); the establishment of the Pakistan Library Association in 1957, and the inauguration of its first Conference in Karachi in 1958 by the president of Pakistan; starting a Ph.D. programme in 1967 and award of first Pakistani doctorate in library science to A. H. Chishti under his guidance. He also taught summer courses at the North Texas State University Library School at Denton in 1967. He was involved in establishing the Karachi Library Association in 1949; he also taught its certificate course during 1953-1954 and held offices in the association until 1952; he also held offices in the Pakistan Bibliographical Working Group (founded in 1950) until 1960 and compiled two of its publications published in 1953. The Society for the Promotion and Improvement of Libraries (1960) is yet another organization with which he was actively associated. But the Pakistan Library Association (PLA) was his major contribution. He was the founder secretary-general, and organized its first two conferences in Karachi in 1958 and in Peshawar in 1959. He also attended its later conferences until 1973 except those of the Fourth (Lahore 1961) and Fifth (Dacca [not Dhaka] 1964) conferences when he was out of the country. In 1982 when the PLA Silver Jubilee Gold Medal was to be awarded to him in the association's conference in Peshawar he was ready to go there to receive the medal but his health did not permit him to go. He attended many seminars outside the country. Among them was Tokyo Seminar in 1957 where the short-lived Asian Federation of Library Associations was formed; Seminar on Library Education in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1966; Seminar of Orientalist Librarians, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1967 (where the International Association of Orientalist Librarians (IAOL) was formed); IAOL Seminar, Canberra, Australia, 1971. He was a member of advisory boards of such international library journals as Journal of Library History (USA; 1962-1972) and International Library Review (UK; 1970-1975). He compiled bibliographies and guides, and wrote more than 30 papers/reports which were published in the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science and various library journals. He also served as consultant to various university/research libraries in Pakistan.

On November 15,1973, he went to Nigeria. At first he served until 1976 as reader in the Library Science Department of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. In 1976 he joined the newly-established Bayero University as its founder librarian and served in that capacity until 1978. He also assisted in designing its new library building, developed and headed the Department of Library Science. He helped set up a diploma course in library science in 1977, B.A. in library science in 1978, and M.A.L.S. in 1980. He became reader and head of the department in 1978 and professor and head in 1980-a post he held until 1982 when he was taken seriously ill and returned to Pakistan. Because of his distinguished services to the University of Karachi, he was appointed advisor to the university in 1983, in which capacity he worked until he breathed his last on January 13,1984. He also taught in the department for one semester in 1983. Abdul Moid struggled all his life "to improve our effectiveness as curators of the records of mankind," says David Kaser. [7] He was always willing "to assume his share of the profession's responsibility" which was so apparent when he visited me in the department on his last visit to the university library a week or so before his death. His hand was shivering but he did say to the librarian who helped him upstairs "Please be a little quicker in whatever work you want to take from me."

The Department of Library Science at the University of Karachi honoured Moid during its Silver Jubilee Celebration of August 10-17,1981. A Festschrift [8] to mark the celebration was published, opening with his article on the early days of the department. The Seminar Library of the Department was named after him on his first death anniversary in 1985. The Karachi University Library to which he devoted most of his time, energy and professional skill during his active service (1952-1973) has, however, not been able to raise its falling standard of services even as a tribute to his memory. The commemorative volume, Dr. Abdul Moid and Pakistan Librarianship, brought out in 1981 in his honour by the Library Promotion Bureau-which also publishes Pakistan Library Bulletin which Moid founded-is not a worthy tribute. Many articles in that publication are repetitious and erroneous in certain details; according to S. J. Haider in some cases it appears that the writers are projecting themselves rather than Moid. [9] On January 27, 1993, however, the University Library, now called Dr. Mahmud Husain Library, posthumously awarded Moid the Shield of Merit in its First Library Conference.

All in all, Dr. Abdul Moid had a highly successful library career. He left considerable impact of his manifold skills and talents as librarian in Nigeria; and, of course in Pakistan where he spent his youthful years in fighting for and promoting the cause of librarianship.


[1] Syed Jalaluddin Haider, "Prof. Abdul Moid (1920-84): Father of Pakistan Librarianship," Pakistan Library Bulletin 15 (March-June, 1984): 30.

[2] Interview with Abdul Moid by Anis Khurshid and Akhter Hanif, on November 11, 1983, audio cassette.

[3] . N. C. Chakravarty, "Lest We Should Forget: K. M. Asadullah (1900-1949)", ILA Bulletin, 4 (January-May 1968): 150.

[4] Interview with Abdul Moid, op.cit.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Abdul Moid, "Library Services in Pakistan," Pakistan Library Review, 1 (March 1958): 14.

[7] David Kaser, "Professor Abdul Moid." in Dr. Abdul Moidand Pakistan Librarianship, ed. Nasim Fatima, et al (Karachi: Library Promotion Bureau, 1981), p. 14.

[8] Library Education Across the Boundaries of Cultures: A Festschrift, ed. Anis Khurshid (Karachi: Library Science Department, University of Karachi, 1981).

[9] Haider, op. cit., p. 29.

[10] Kaser, op. cit.

About the Author

Anis Kurshid is Professor of Library Science at the University of Karachi. For biographical information see TWL 1-1.

© 1994 Anis Kurshid


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