Spiti Valley is a cold desert mountain region. Located at an altitude of 3,800 mts above sea level, it is considered inaccessible by many. The place is cut off for almost 8 months in a year. Let’s Open a Book is currently working with over 25 government primary schools in this area, helping them set up free libraries on campus.
Kaza is the commercial centre of Spiti Valley. The Public Library in Kaza is a Taluka library and was established in 1984. The current librarian, Mrs. Chhering Dolma, is very passionate about serving readers who visit her library. It was on her initiative that our team visited the library and created a broad level plan.
This report captures the basics of our intervention, which focused on the immediate requirements to make the library a clean, bright and inviting space. The support from the local authorities was instrumental in this.
The Kaza Public Library, (established in 1984) is housed in the government complex in New Kaza. The current librarian, Madam Chhering Dolma, was one of the participants at the 4-day workshop that we conducted in Kaza, in September 2018. Madam Chhering Dolma had previously been a Cluster Head Teacher for a cluster of schools in Spiti Valley. Once the workshop was over, she requested our team to visit the library. The library has been underused for a while and she wanted to revive it so that it can be used by the locals.
Priority Action Items
Furniture & Layout: Excess furniture in the room (tables, chairs, almirahs) was making movement difficult. Almirahs had been lined up against all the windows, which blocked natural light. There was also a stock of old computer hardware which hadn’t been used for a while.
Cleanliness: The carpet on the floor allowed dust to get settled underneath it. As a result, every time there was movement, dust would rise, making the air inside the room very dusty. Excess furniture also made it difficult to clean the floor.
Collection of Books: The library houses many great books. However, the books were not sorted into proper sections, making it difficult for users to find books. Old books, magazines and newspapers also needed to be removed.
Lack of Children’s Corner: There was no provision for younger children. The only place which could potentially be used for this purpose was the librarian’s office, which was hardly being used.
Furniture and Layout
The almirahs which were blocking natural light from the windows were moved away. This allowed natural light to filter in through the windows.
Old almirahs were emptied and moved to a different space
Excess tables and chairs were removed
Changed the existing layout to provide space for movement
Recommended Next Steps
Include a low seating space to provide comfortable seating for the readers
Basic repairs and a fresh coat paint
The existing carpeting in the room was trapping dust underneath. So the first step was to remove the carpet and to remove the layer of dust that had settled on the floor.
Windows were opened after the almirahs placed in front of them were removed and they were thoroughly cleaned.
Dust had settled on the books; the books were also dusted.
The librarian has further removed the remaining carpet as well and cleaned the space.
Collection of Books: Work has been started on sorting the books under different categories. Some of these categories are:
Dictionaries, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia
Himalayas – Shimla, Spiti, Ladakh
Rule Books from Himachal Government
Old magazines and newspapers were removed.
Old books need to be written off over a period of time.
UsageSetting Up A Children’s Corner: The onlyspace available to create Children’s Corner was the librarian’s room. The following things were done in order to set it up:
Walls were painted bright yellow
Two small sections on the door were painted with chalkboard paint so that these can be used for writing notices etc.
Floor was covered with carpet
Traditional seating created with mattresses and carpets
Display & Decor:
Books were displayed on the walls (on ropes tied across the room)
Old trunks were painted (for storage of books)
Flags and other decorations added to make the room colourful
Collection of books:
LOAB gifted a set of books to start the children’s room. These books are mostly meant for children under the age of ten. The current assortment of books includes books from the following publishers (Hindi and English):
Some other books that can be added to the collection are:
Books from National Book Trust
Posters from Ektara (Hindi poems and stories)
Books in Bhoti from Pratham
Books in Bhoti from Scholastic
A tablet with over 500 children’s books was handed over to the librarian, to be used with the children. This tablet is a gift from our partner organization, WorldReader. The librarian needs to connect the tablet to the internet once a month to allow for usage data to be communicated online to the partner organization.
Children can either read at the library, or borrow books to take back home
There would be no membership fee for this
Teachers who have been given books for their school library by LOAB can come and exchange books so that the school library collection is always updated
Madam Chhering Dolma has complete records of books being borrowed by schools
Ruchi is passionate about making a difference in the social development space. She graduated from St. Xavier’s College in 2007 with a specialization in English literature. Post MBA she has worked with organizations like A.T. Kearney and Bain & Company. Through her organization Let’s Open a Book, she has set up free libraries in Assam, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.
The Community Library Project
Ramditti J R Narang Deepalaya Learning Center B-65, Panchsheel Vihar, Delhi, India