Can we please revive our library culture?

Can we please revive our library culture?

The State Central Library housed in Sheshadri Iyer Memorial Hall at Cubbon Park, established in 1915. DH/PV archive photo

As National Library Week draws to a close, Farheen, our resident bookworm, writes about the one constant friend she relies on when in need of information, education or entertainment: the library. 
“When in doubt, go to the library,” Ron Weasley of Harry Potter once famously said. A library is the Google of yore; it's something that we have taken for granted these days. 

Hermione, Harry and Ron in the Hogwarts library

When pop culture portrays libraries as boring spots filled only with 'uncool nerds', I can't help but feel exasperated. Not just because I love libraries or that I want to be known as 'cool', but also because there is nothing cooler than reading. And libraries are those places that not only give you refuge from the cacophony of the real world but also succeed in making you a more interesting person (in my humble opinion). 

I have never seen a person or a large group of people in a library creating trouble. Readers, by virtue of reading, become more open-minded, creative and fun! But the real fun of reading lies in the atmosphere that a library provides, which is beyond comparison. 

The moment you step into the library, a whiff of the old books transports you to a different world. The silence calms you down and erases all the stress from the outside world as you disappear into the arms of the library. In front of you lies a maze and aisle after aisle of book racks. The labels on the aisles like 'History', 'Literature' and 'Science' warm your heart because you know where to look for what you need. You just need to hunt and walk, and lo! Your favourite reads are there waiting for you. 

Don't we bibliophiles love the leisurely amble between the book racks? Lightly tapping some book, one you have already read and loved as though greeting an old friend. Or pulling out a book, giving it a once-over and putting it back with a promise to come back to it. And choose a book you want to read and sit down with it on a rusty chair at a wooden table that has stood the test of time. Book lovers like you are all around, reading, marking, making notes or simply flipping through pages. Nobody talks to the next person, yet there is a tacit understanding that you are all friends, comrades who read and find solace in the company of row after row of books. That's how most introverted readers socialise. 

Max Mueller Bhavan library. DH archive photo

I do the same. I begin reading after I have fanned the pages of my book, soaking in the fragrance of the ink, letters and old pages. Till it's time for the library to close its gates, I never walk out on my friends. 

Libraries were always a part of our lives, weren't they? As a child, I remember spending my weekends in different libraries. During school, an hourlong library period was just not enough. I craved for more and the 'two-books-a-week' rule seemed unfair. I needed more time with my library. That's when I decided to join other libraries. I would slip out to these havens whenever I had the time. I remember cancelling plans just because I wanted to sit down and read at the library. 

Libraries were never just four walls and racks of books. Libraries were the escape that wrapped you in a warm embrace no matter what. There is no way under the heavens that a person could ever feel lonely in a library because it is always there to answer your questions, to make you laugh, cry or even help you sleep. 

If only all of us could wake up to the smell of books (you can smell your coffee if you want, but give me the fragrance of old, yellowed paper any day!) and reclaim our library culture. It is time that we teach the younger generation that outside the Kindles, the iPads and the video games lies a wonderful world just waiting to be discovered: between rows of books, at reading tables, inside the four walls of a library and it will teach you more than any technology ever could.

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