Sitting snuggled in a shelter between Sitla and Odakhan in the Kumaun Mountains, is a wondrous library. It is free, open and used happily by adults and children from neighbouring hills and dales. The couple whose brainwave this is built a house at Satholi and decided they would also run a library for the neighbourhood. I think their greatest stroke of luck came when they chanced upon a young man working at a restaurant/hotel in Dehra Dun and realised they had found the ideal librarian. This I can attest to, having visited the library, browsed through the books and chatted with the soft-spoken, yet sharp-eyed librarian.
How do you deal with people who don’t return books , was my first in-house question.
No problem, at all. I have their home addresses. If they take too long, I walk over to their homes and ask if they could return the books because there are others waiting to read them.
Do you have any way to guage if they are really reading the books they take?
I just ask them to tell me what they liked about the story and any character they liked. Then I know if they have read it. If they halt and stammer, then I gently tell them that it is a wonderful story and they should go back and read it!
What about recommending books? Do the children listen to your suggestions?
I show them some books and say that so and so liked it very much. Here everyone knows everyone else so they are eager to read what the others are reading. Sometimes they come looking for titles their friends have liked.
Do they suggest books to be bought?
Very much so. They will tell me that the Chirag School has this book and it is very good. The teachers also come here to borrow for themselves so they also give suggestions. Today you, a librarian, have given me many interesting ideas. That is how the library will move forward.
The library carries newspapers and magazines both in Hindi and in English. What a humbling and at the same time energising experience it was to visit and see this magical librarty in the mountains.
Go to Kumaun and see for yourself!