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In Madurai, books in search of readers now

By November 19, 2018No Comments

Source : The Hindu

Mobile library goes to people who are nose-deep into their smart phones and have forgotten the smell of books

Every morning at 9.30., J. John Kennedy, the driver of Madurai’s first Mobile Library, takes the wheel. He and Librarian (in-charge) N. Nehruji have a fixed schedule to follow. They park at a particular spot and open the doors of the big van for people to climb in and browse books.

For five days a week, the mobile library is parked near corporation schools. Students, and even old people and women, browse the collection and immerse themselves in their books of choice.

Now that he has driven the vehicle since its launch in May, Mr. Kennedy says he can feel the pulse of readers and guess what type of books they are after. “Children grab general knowledge books and young adults like fiction. Women pick up magazines and novels. Old people flitter all over the collection, as they have varied interests and find it difficult to narrow down to a particular subject,” he says. The crew enrol new members wherever they go. The subscription is Rs. 30 for a year and the books are not for lending.

But the mobile library caters to all. It takes books to people who are nose-deep into their smart phones and have forgotten the smell of books. It functions from Sunday to Thursday. The large van can hold about 3,000 books and has been designed to kindle an interest in reading books, says District Library Officer M. Ramachandran. The State government has allotted Rs. 15 lakh each for the seven districts where the mobile library is functioning.

Mr. Ramachandran says a special budget has been allocated for purchase of books for the mobile libraries. However, since the books have not arrived from Chennai, books from the District Central Library in Simmakkal are being stocked in the van for the time being.

Mr. Nehruji says about 60 people step into the library on a given day. “We often nudge onlookers, mostly youngsters, to go inside and have a look at the books. There is a book for everyone and that is what the mobile van concept is all about,” he says.

The best days

A. Manoharan, former advisor to Society for Advancement of Library and Information Science (SALIS), Madurai, says a provision for mobile libraries was made in the Tamil Nadu Public Libraries Act, 1948. Initially, bullock carts were used. In the 1970s, vans carrying around 500 books came into being. “The Simmakkal Central Library had a fixed schedule with details of the villages and timings for the van visit. The vans even travelled to small villages without proper roads. The books were lent for a fortnight. Readers eagerly returned books and selected new ones, in leisure too, as the van would be stationed in each village for half a day. The villagers used the mobile libraries to the hilt then,” he says.

Mr. Manoharan rues that the mobile library of today is not serving its ultimate purpose, as it is yet to visit remote areas where there is a real need for books.

L. Radha, Librarian of Thiagarajar College of Engineering, says the breed of readers is fast dwindling. “Ironically, even city people are not aware of the mobile library. Villagers who do not have access to books, particularly expensive ones, will get an opportunity to read only if the library is taken to remote areas,” she says.

“Since many government schools do not have a good library, manned by a librarian to suggest books to children, the mobile library should not stop with corporation schools alone and must be stationed near all these schools and spread the reading habit,” she says.

Mr. Ramachandran says the mobile library will start visiting the city extension areas by April next year. He says a proposal will be sent to the State government to re-introduce the small mobile vans, so that they could go to every nook and cranny of the city through narrow roads and remote villages.

The mobile library caters to all as the large van can hold about 3,000 books and has been designed to kindle an interest in reading books

M. Ramachandran

District Library Officer

The breed of readers is fast dwindling. Ironically, even city people are not aware of the mobile library

L. Radha

Librarian, Thiagarajar College of Engineering

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