Open Library

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The dream and the reality

I just came back from Kausani in Uttarakhand where a small library had started in May this year. Well, it is actually in full operation!

The young woman who took on the task of being the ‘librarian’ seems to be born to be one. I sat quietly in a corner and watched her interact with the kids. “Accha, aap yeh ghar le jana chahte hain? teek hai.Kitab ko achi tharah se dekh lena aur vapas jab leke aaoge, aisi hi rahani chahiye.” Another comment was to ask them to relax and browse first and then select the book they want. About 30 to 35 children visit, borrow and return with care.

On my second day, I chatted with the children asking them to tell me why they were borrowing a particular book and so on. Hema also pitched in to say that she would like them to tell her what they liked or did not when they returned the books. Though there are some timings listed for the library, she tells me that the children know they can come in whenever they can. One enthusiastic mother told me that she reads all the books her 9 year old daughter brings home.

The older ones, age 14 and above wanted GK question and answers! Some mothers felt hat this was taking their children away from homework and tuitions. So there are challenges but already with Hema’s co-operation, we have a plan in place. When I visit there again in November, we will have a short interaction with the mothers,telling them how valuable it is for the reading habit to grow, plying them with some Jilebis first. Also we will get some books for the mothers  too. The other plan is to put up some flyers in the market area.

Lets see how it works. Meanwhile if any of you visit Kausani, don’t forget to visit the Himjoli shop and check out the Kausani Kishor Kitab Ghar in a corner of the shop. All thanks to Mr. Pankaj Wadhwa for having the vision to house this little library in his outlet.

Usha Mukunda.

October 14th 2012.

If Kausani can have a library can Varadenahalli be far behind?

About 40 kms from Bangalore city under the benevolent shadow of the Savandurga monolithic rock hill, lies a small village called Varadenahalli. To some of us, it has come to be home because our school, CFL has spread its roots in the welcoming soil of this village.

For some years now, the children of the Government school there have had energetic interactions with the school, both in academic subjects and in other ways. Teachers and students have interacted with the children formally in the school setting and informally on walks where they constantly hear childish voices call out, “Kallaje navare,tata.” More recently the teachers have also begun a womens outreach where they meet the women of the village once a month and talk and learn from each other.

Leela and I, having been with the school for many years, were wondering if we could actually start a small library for the village. But where could it be housed and who would run it? Both questions were answered in such simple ways that we could not help feeling like Shakespeare, that there is a divinity that shapes our ends! On a walk, we spotted the abandoned but standing room where the Anganwadi was. It was now used we were told for Bhajanes and for Ganesh Habba. In other words it was a public space! Check one. At the monthly meeting with women, two teenage girls expressed their keenness to run the library. Check two and we were off!

So we bought the books, a kindly soul made two wonderful shelves himself, other friends jumped in to paint the walls and windows, and the library was poised to GO! We took the books into the space and like a magnet,apart from the two girls, three other teenage boys also came in and within minutes they had grasped the system of stamping, numbering, accessing and sorting the books  into categories! A handful of younger children were made to stamp. The stamp may have smudged but their joy was unsullied!

On Thursday Oct. 11th, the library ‘opened’ with the name they chose, “Jnana Gange Granthalaya.” Eager younger children who came in early sat down to make posters for the place. Leela told them all a story and also a few guidelines for using the library.

But one could see the children’s impatience to handle the books! A  steady stream of children followed by teenagers and finally by some young mothers  came in. They browsed, sat, read and  went off happily clutching their books, promising to take good care and return them. The youngsters from the village were totally in charge. I heard just  now that the enthusiasm is undiminished. What we need are more books for older children and for the adult women.

Any ideas anyone for small funds?

Usha Mukunda

October 13th 2012.