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Fellow Citizens Of India, Let’s Make Libraries Cool Again

Local libraries are becoming obsolete thanks to lack of funding, low membership, and outdated collections. It is time we return to libraries.

Imagine a simpler time, a world before the internet, GPS, and our incessant need to know everything about everything. A time when the world was largely a mystery. And the only map to this great unknown was through the ones on a page, and the only access to them was the libraries of our old towns.

Whether it was a big building with lofty pillars or a small structure with limited wooden shelves, the smell of the old pages was the same in them. Does it bring back some memories?

Yes, the library, is a sanctuary for readers everywhere. It sounds like a nostalgic thing of the past for most of us now, but it still exists.

Sure enough, we now have fancier alternatives for reading in upscale coffee shops, but I am here to make a case for the good ol’ libraries and why we must preserve it.

History of public libraries in India

India has a long history, with libraries dating back to 1910. Public Library System was pioneered under the leadership of Maharaja of Baroda, Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III. He even started Library Associations in Taluks and organized ‘Mitra Mandal’ in the town.

It was 1972 that was a tipping point for the library movement in India when it was declared as International Book Year with the slogan, ‘Books For All’.

The same year, Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF) was established by the Ministry of Culture. It was created to take library services all over the country.

A dying trend

Just like how video killed the radio star, the internet cafés and PCs of the 2000s killed the local libraries. Let’s not disagree on that. Libraries in India, which didn’t have a lot, to begin with, started seeing a steep decline along with the culture of reading following the coming of the Internet.

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This slump in the culture of reading continued until the pandemic. One of the few positive things that came out of the pandemic was how it revived people’s interest in books again.

The sales of the books spiked so much that even the World Economic Forum sat up, took notice, and reported on the 20% increase in sales of consumer books in 2021.

Make libraries cool again

With books and #bookstagram seeing an upward spike, it’s important to democratize this trend, so it doesn’t end up becoming an elitist subculture. We still have 50% of India with no access to the internet.

Their access to the world is still largely through written words, especially if they come at cost. This is where public libraries can make a difference, but of course with the help of our efforts.

Local libraries are increasingly becoming obsolete due to various issues such as lack of funding, low membership, and outdated collections to name a few.

Every help counts. So, consider being a member of a local library near you, and if you can, donate your old academic books or novels instead of selling or throwing them. If you give one book to someone, it helps that one individual.

But if you donate it to a library, you can make that knowledge accessible to many, usually ones who can’t afford it.

And don’t consider this as a public service announcement, a public library is also the perfect place for reading enthusiasts to read, find like-minded people, and unwind. After being caged inside the house for four years, going to a nearby library might just be the change you need!

Embrace the remodel

With the world moving faster towards technology, we need to re-think and find more ways to use library spaces and their existing infrastructures. In many cities like Bengaluru, libraries have seen modern makeovers in recent years.

For example, City Central Library at Indiranagar, Bengaluru now boasts of new features like an in-built internet café, and children reading area among others.

The City Central library provides us with a great use case for various prospects in which a library can be restructured and used. Sometimes, we must re-think our old ways to make way for the new. Sometimes, that’s the only way to sustain and co-exist.

Let this be your reminder to pause on your walks and take notice of your nearby library. And if you do stop, go the extra mile and step inside. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover something new amidst the old.

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Image source: CanvaPro

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