Header Ads

A new kind of community hub

Diverse services(Clockwise from above) A view of District Central Library at Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu; yoga classes for children and tech support for users.M Moorthy

It was way back in 1841 that Scottish philosopher and writer Thomas Carlyle wrote, ‘The true university of these days is a collection of books.’ At the District Central Library in Tiruchi, this sentiment finds ample support as the public institution tries to adapt itself to the evolving needs of its users.

“We have to transform libraries into a centre for community development and social empowerment for lifelong learning,” says A P Sivakumar, District Library Officer at Tiruchi. “The library is not just a warehouse of books, but something more meaningful. We would like it to be easily accessible to all sections of society.”

Books and beyond

Inaugurated in July 2013, the ambience in the 35,000 square feet double-storey institution alternates between pools of studious calm and excited activity even as outside, heavy traffic plies its way through the busy West Boulevard area.

The District Central Library has a collection of over 1.25 lakh books with a membership of 48,029 people, of whom around 10-15,000 are active users. “On average, 1,000 people visit our library daily. We issue approximately 600 books every day. However, this is not much when compared to the city’s population,” says Mr Sivakumar. “Many people may wonder whether they even need a library. But this is an institution that can change your perspective on life.”

One can support the library by becoming a ‘patron’, ‘great patron’ or ‘donor’ by contributing an amount of Rs. 1000, Rs. 5000 and Rs. 10,000 respectively. Currently, the library has 321 patrons, 13 great patrons and 3 donors.

A hive of activity

For close to a year, the District Central library has been offering leisure and career-oriented courses to the public. Besides Sunday classes in chess, storytelling and drawing, children can avail of a computer-aided training programme. Career guidance for young job aspirants is coupled with coaching classes for competitive exams. The library also conducts courses aimed exclusively at women and senior citizens, including a yoga class every Friday. There is a section devoted to the learning requirements of persons with disability, especially the visually impaired, established with the financial assistance of the Raja Rammohan Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF), under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture.

Recently, Education Minister K A Sengottaiyan inaugurated soft skill development centre at the library. A summer vacation activity camp for children has been on this month in addition to the regular programmes.

Technology aids

Mr Sivakumar attributes the success of these courses to the volunteers and social organisations like the Rotary Club who chip in with the teaching and administration duties.

A database of 3,000 audio books has been created for the use of visually impaired students solely by volunteers. On a recent weekend, students from National Institute of Technology – Tiruchi (NITT) could be seen assisting visually impaired learners at the library.

“We take books that the visually impaired want to use, and share them with our volunteers in the NITT campus to make audio copies. Usually it takes us a week to get a ‘talking book’ ready,” says a student volunteer.

Some 50 candidates with visual impairment have been employed in various departments with the help of the library’s services, in the past three years.

Besides this, a book scanner is available for creating electronic photocopies of newspapers, rare books and documents.

The library’s upcoming projects include the construction of a conference hall on the second floor and expansion of facilities with the help of grants from the National Medical Library (NML). It has also been sanctioned Rs. 64 lakhs by the Tamil Nadu School Education Department to set up theme-based exclusive sections on Science and Mathematics.

‘Read to live’

Mr Sivakumar, who has 30 years of experience in the Department of Public Libraries, Tamil Nadu, was selected as a ‘public library innovator’ by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USA, in 2014. He was coached under the INELI Scheme (International Network of Emerging Library Innovators) of the foundation, and visited libraries in the Netherlands and Chile as part of this programme.

He is one of the mentors to INELI South Asia programme which is now being implemented by the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai where a number of Indian public librarians are trained to hone their leadership skills.

Reading should be a must in today’s life, says Mr Sivakumar. “Parents should be readers first, so that they can influence their children to read. In schools, we read to pass exams, but we must read to live life, because it can help even in daily decision-making,” he says. Public libraries come to the rescue of families who cannot afford to buy books, says Mr Sivakumar. “A person who is a good reader definitely knows how to manage his or her emotions. It is an important skill in these times when people are easily provoked by wrong and fake news spread through social media.”

The library has a collection of over 1.25 lakh books with a membership of 48,029 people, of whom around 10-15,000 are active users

Big book bank

The National Library on the Belvedere Estate in Alipore, Kolkata, established in 1836, is the oldest and largest library in India by volume and the country’s library of public record


No comments

Powered by Blogger.