Library Through The Lockdown And Beyond

15th August 2020

When I first moved to this neighborhood, I wasn’t aware that there was a community library close to home. As I came to the library for the first time with a friend I noticed a Sir doing a read aloud. I sat down to listen to a story. Later I realized I could take books home too. But first I would have to get a membership, which turned out to be completely free. I was not required to submit ID proof, nor were there any other hassles and requirements.

A few days later I found out that Saturdays are Book Repairs day at the library. I really wanted to get involved in this work, so I reached the library one Saturday. I saw some grownups and a few kids working together mending books. Later I started a conversation with mam, which led to me being part of this group. That’s how I began my journey with the Student Council of TCLP.

There was a lot to learn; cataloguing, circulation, and above all, to welcome everyone ‘pyaar se’. The Student Council also helped me find a group of friends, that I have become close to now. It’s a group where we can share our diverse points of views without any hesitation. The discussions we have had in the Student Council have had a huge positive influence on my thinking, my beliefs, and my life.

Our Student Council meetings are buzzing with ideas and discussions. But every time we have to make a decision, we first consider the effect it would have on our members. We believe that our members and their needs should always come first. For example, now as we consider reopening the library, we have to think about our members’ safety and what they would expect from us.

Unfortunately, the lockdown has meant that our library has been shut for a few months. I have terribly missed our Student Council friends, members, our volunteers. There is a sense of loss; I am missing something crucial to my life. But we have managed to stay together online. We are doing read-alouds through our online Duniya Sabki library, and that keeps us connected.

My online read-aloud training was fascinating in itself – on Zoom. Initially I wondered how I would do read-alouds from home without access to books. But then I was informed about Storyweaver website. Now I pick books from the website and create video read-alouds on X-Recorder. But yes, there is a difference between doing read-alouds in the library and online.

Our members’ reactions that I see while doing read-alouds in the library tell me whether they are enjoying the story. I get to hear their opinions; sometimes you might discover a new aspect, meaning of the story. Often members choose a book themselves and ask me to do a read-aloud. Those are truly special moments.

Though I miss those moments and the joy of face-to-face stories in the library, I know that online read-alouds are imperative right now because they allow us to stay connected with our members. They have also boosted my confidence a lot. If I get something wrong, I can always do a retake to fix it. But yes, getting live reactions from our members is always more fun.

That’s the reason I hope our library reopens soon and I can be reunited with my gang. Right now, our gang is separated. I also look forward to meeting and spending time with our librarians and volunteers because they always motivate us. I strongly believe that once we get back together, we will bring our members back too. I eagerly wait for that moment because I am missing my “second family”.

Interviewed by Student Council member Simpy Sharma.

Your support will help Sahil and TCLP continue with the work on Duniya Sabki and reach thousands of members. To donate https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-members-of-the-library-and-staff.

Sahil Balmik is a Student Council member with TCLP Khirki.
The Community Library Project
Dharam Bhavan, C-13 Housing Society
South Extension Part -1
New Delhi - 110049
Donations to The Community Library Project are exempt from tax under section 80G of the Income Tax Act. Tax exemption is only valid in India.

Illustrations provided by Priya Kurien.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
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