The seeds for The Community Library Project (TCLP) were sown in the early 2010’s with a read-aloud program conducted by Mridula Koshy & Michael Creighton, for children attending the Ramditti J R Narang Deepalaya Learning Centre in New Delhi.
At the centre of the program was the idea that reading is thinking. That everyone, regardless of their social or economic background, had the right to books and other tools of learning. In order to actualize this, one had to acknowledge the serious lack of free, community libraries in India that welcomed all, especially in those communities that had historically been left out (or actively kept out) of any discourse around books & reading.
In 2014-15, the first library was set up, in partnership with the NGO Deepalaya. Anyone could walk in and become a member, free of cost. Members could issue books once a week and participate in the Reading Program consisting of regular read-alouds that focussed on scaffolding first-generation readers as they embarked on their reading journeys.
Today, TCLP has set up 3 libraries in Delhi & Gurugram, catering to a membership of over 3500 children & adults, 7 days a week. We have also assisted several organizations in Delhi and beyond in creating free community libraries that welcome all.
The Reading Program has developed multi-faceted curriculum for first-generation readers from ages 4 yrs to 16 yrs, and includes daily Read Alouds by member leaders, volunteers and staff, the Reading Fluency program, Honour Roll, Poetry Workshops and Book Club etc. TCLP libraries are high-standard, low-cost libraries with an excellently curated (and regularly updated) collection of over 7,000 books in Hindi, English, Urdu and Bengali.
TCLP is consistently moving towards making its libraries community-owned as it mentors the Students Council – selected members, who are trained in library science, read-aloud strategies and community mobilization. These young leaders are emerging as librarians, community organizers as well as read-aloud trainers that are building a culture of ‘Reading Is Thinking’.
TCLP libraries have evolved into cultural & literary hubs, where community can engage with each other’s ideas in a safe & meaningful way. These spaces open up to writers, publishers, poets, dancers, musicians and other artists to perform and share their works with local residents. While our members benefit from & enjoy these experiences, artists, writers & publishers, too, widen their notions of who their audiences can be.
TCLP has initiated The Community Library Network, an attempt to bring different free libraries and reading programs across India onto one platform that supports each other and unites to advocate for community libraries that welcome all. By doing so, it hopes to build momentum on the library movement that has well & truly begun in India.
The Community Library Project is animated by the idea that all people should have access to books and thinking through books, and that this can be accomplished by creating libraries that allow people to borrow books at no cost. We are particularly concerned in building a library movement that promotes libraries that welcome all and provide an inclusive space for members to come together to articulate their ideas, opinions, questions and issues.
To strive for an equitable and thoughtful society by expanding access to books and by promoting critical and imaginative thinking, so that our society is one characterised by increasing freedom to introspect, gain self-awareness, debate and express ourselves.