Cultivating reading habits

Dreams coloured (Clockwise) Children reading books in the library at Karkihalli village in Koppal; resourceful books stacked in a shelf; elders reading in the library premises.

Having access to a library can mean different things to different people. But, for those staying in rural communities, they are often seen as an important source to access information and a place of knowledge generation. This is perhaps what motivated The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) to set up a community library in Karkihalli village in Koppal under the name Nammoora Granthalaya. This community library was set up with support from Salesforce Healthy Community grant and was a specialised corporate social responsibility project conceptualised by TERI.

As libraries are often seen as a place where people, particularly the young, can gather to learn, TERI believed that setting up a community library can serve as space for people to learn, come together and grow. “The main objectives to set up the library at Karkihalli were to develop a learning environment, help youngsters to cultivate a reading habit and to promote traditional board games and other activities,” says Y Nagaraju, field manager at TERI.

A new horizon

The decision to start a library at Karkihalli was not difficult for TERI as there was an active interest from the community’s side to establish one. As a result of their meetings with the village youngsters and elected representatives, TERI representatives with the approval of the gram panchayat were able to finalise on a building that remained unused and in a dilapidated condition at the entrance of Karkihalli. The enthusiasm of the children and youth prompted the panchayat to provide an additional site area around the building. To ensure a smooth process, TERI had regular meetings with the village representatives, local community members and Sarovodaya Integrated Rural Development Society, a local non-profit organisation that supported TERI to set up the library.

The first thing that TERI started on was renovating the structure into an attractive, lively place that can house a library. To make it eco-friendly, TERI’s green building expert was roped in to prepare cost-effective, green designs using local resources. Various plans were drawn, in consultation with the local community, to modify the existing building and the surrounding area. In addition to renovating the building, seven pergolas were added and the compound was fenced. Much of the interiors had to be changed as there was a lot of damage. The building was modified in such a way that it can provide an entrance porch, a hall where the librarian could be seated and monitor all corners. Dedicated areas were demarked for reading newspapers and magazines. Finally, the entire building was painted to give it a spacious and neat finish. A group of volunteers from Salesforce came forward to help make the renovated library attractive, and encourage the community members to visit and use the library. The library was equipped with basic furniture to display the books and seating for readers.

So, with the physical structure now ready, the next step was to collect books. The books were selected after assessing the youngsters’ interest and need. Based on their views and after extensive research, TERI sourced over 500 books for different age groups from various publishers, government departments and educational centres. Once this was complete, the library was inaugurated in 2014.

Many have benefitted from the library, particularly children, as it not only helps them study more but also read for pleasure. “Earlier, the children in our community did not take an interest in reading for pleasure. Today, this has changed as reading has been made to look attractive due to the presence of a local library,” shares Hucheerappa, the library caretaker. School children make use of the library during or after school hours, while the older community members visit during the evenings and holidays.

The community library is now managed by the Namoora Granthalaya Committee, which comprises members from the local community, gram panchayat, school and two civil society organisations. With an aim to make Namoora Granthalaya independent, TERI withdrew in 2016. Today, the library is being run entirely by the village members by effectively using the funds provided by the gram panchayat and contributions from outside.

So, is the library a success? “Based on the data we have collected between October 2014 and September 2018, an average of 250 children, young adults and elders visited the library every month,” shares Nagaraju. This goes to show the positive impact that a local library had made in areas where books and libraries are difficult to access. As novelist Sidney Sheldon once said, “Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life.”

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