Libraries need not be silent spaces

Libraries need not be silent spaces

Back to books

Last year when a ‘mohalla (local) library drive’ came to West Vinod Nagar, people of that locality were more than happy to contribute books from their household to the library.

Apporv Mehra, a 27-year-old, resident of the colony made available a room in his house so that the library could be set up. Now C-Block West Vinod Nagar has a ‘mohalla library’.
“People here are mostly job oriented, they go to Noida to work and come back at night, and there is no family life. I never received a library so close to my house when I was growing up. I want children here to pick up a reading habit,” he says.

East Delhi recently got 10 mohalla libraries, a joint effort by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Bhartiya Akshara Social Organisation (BASO), a non-profit organisation. These libraries are built by the people and for the people of the colony. People only contribute here, there is no money flow for any purpose. Hence, each mohalla library has a different texture and collection.

This library has 450 books, where everyone from children to adults can come between 10 am to 12 pm in the morning and evening, from 4.30 to 6 pm. “We do check ids, so that we can keep track of the books. One can reissue a book as many times,” he says. 

Mehra says, even when someone wants a library they’d try to use a school library, but the system is demoralising, as one has to return the book in a week and follow too many regulations.

The plan is to have 3000 such libraries all over the city, the new ones are mostly in East Delhi, as the founder of BASO, Deepak Bajpai is from there. He is also an AAP volunteer now.

“The work started in 2007 itself, much before AAP was even there. The motto was to bring our kids back to books. We had established a library in Noida, which is the biggest one right now, with around 3000 books,” Bajpai tells Metrolife.

The non-profit organisation’s movement is called Kitabgiri, “I want to ask parents, when was the last time you took your kids to a public library? I am sure they’d have no memory of it,” says Bajpai.

He thinks that high flown public libraries are rather intimidating to children and far from home, whereas, these libraries are homely and fun.

He says that the atmosphere in public libraries is such that you have to keep silent, not have fun and return books in a week or there will be a fine charged. “Here, in these libraries we don’t do that. We want children to just come, read or issue books,” he says. In the second phase, after getting space for the library, BASO plans to organise yatras, where a skilled librarian and other professionals will visit the library every one or two months. They will review the books, remove unnecessary ones and also catalogue the books.

“These professionals are also working for us for free. Some people have donated textbooks, like their accounts book, which is not suitable in their libraries. We take those books out and keep them, we plan to use it for another kind of library,” says Bajpai.

BASO has also approached schools to donate their student’s old books after they graduate from one class to another. Amity International, Bal Bhavan School and some others have come forward to help.

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