Free Libraries Network (FLN) organized an Open House on library practices to facilitate a participatory discussion. This report has been documented by Poonam, Library Facilitator (FLN Member, Maharashtra)
Report on Open House Library Practices Q & A
Date: 15th January, 2022
Time: 2.00 to 4:30 PM
Duration: 150 minutes
Participants: 53 Free Libraries Network (FLN) members from over 14 library organisations
Language of instruction: Primarily Hindi & English both mixed as language of instruction
Transcribers/Translators: Zoya, Noor, Ruchi, Prachi and Raghu
To facilitate a participatory discussion on library practices an open house was organised on 15th January in which 53 Free Libraries Network (FLN) members from over 14 library organisations participated in the open house. The idea while designing this session was to create a space to ask questions, share our challenges while working in libraries and enabling cross-sharing of our best practices. We would like to share that this was our first attempt at subtitling the session in both Hindi and English languages which was based on the accessibility request from one of the members. This would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of all volunteers who were at it throughout the session.
The open house was held from 2.00 to 4.30 pm and primarily focused on three key themes - Readers Engagement with books, Building collection for the library and Cultivating relationships between library and the community. Some of the points discussed during the three segments were around keeping readers interest in reading while running a mobile circulating library, being more aware about the context and caste based dynamics while setting up a space for reading, keeping books in our collection which are in local language of the readers and how rarely they get published, emphasizing on oral storytelling in community and other forms of stories.
While discussing about building a collection for our readers, members shared that we together need to work as a collective to advocate to publishers the need to publish books which are set in our context and also in regional languages as most of the members work with libraries where the readers’ language may be different from the dominant languages like English or Hindi. Members shared about finding publishers who publish in regional languages and sourcing books from them for the readers. Also while accepting donations using our discernment to choose books and communicate our need to the donor as we just don’t want more books but instead want books relevant and useful for our readers. Members also shared the collection they have built on the theme of ‘Reading for Justice’ and curating books that explain and uphold the Constitution of India. An international standard of reader to books ratio was shared which should be 1:7 as this ensures the readers have enough and diverse options to choose from based on their interest when they visit the library.
Creating safe spaces for girls and women in the community who otherwise do not have access to reading and thinking spaces was also emphasized by members. When it came to ‘othering’ and discrimination that our reader community experiences, members shared their strategies of trying to tackle this through a non-confrontational dialogue. It was also discussed that as facilitators in libraries we understand our readers and the community well and also create an environment in the library where everyone can see each other as humans first. The library needs to have a policy against discrimination and the facilitator needs to have an anti-oppressive approach in the library to ensure everyone feels welcome in the library.
The last segment of the open house was for any queries, sharing that member participants had and the discussion that happened during this segment like all other segments was enlightening. The need to have a curriculum for engaging readers with the collection, building community and shared leadership in the library, using social media for promoting work and seeking resources and staying accountable to our stakeholders. As free libraries are not the agenda for funding for many, our collective strength as a network will make our work more visible and assert our identity as a bigger group working towards creating free libraries for readers. We closed the session on a very inspiring note of what a free libraries network can do to promote the free library movement and we all look forward to meeting each other soon again.
Feedback from participants:
Participants shared how they felt seen and heard in the space and hoped that the FLN members uphold this democratic space always. They also expressed how beautiful the overall day was for them and look forward to what the future holds for all FLN members and the libraries.
1. Mera poora din bohot khubsoorat guzra. Aap sab ka shukriya itne dhyan se sab ki baat sunne ke liye. Bohot kuch seekha aur bohot saare naye cheezon ke baare mein sochne ko mila. Mein soch rahin hun agar aane wale waqt mein FLN member libraries mein mulaqat karenge, hum member libraries mein jayenge, bhavishya bohot sundar Nazar aaraha hai
2. Jis mohbbat ke sath humein suna gya. Uska mai tahe dil se shukriya ada krta hun. Warna mujhe hamesh se lgte aaya hai ki humein bhala kaun sunega. Hum khud ko DISCUSSION se hi bahar samjhte aaye hai. Meri bus yahi dua hai ki FLN ke sab member is yakeen ko hamesh banaye rkhe
Some of the links that were shared during the open house:
Report documented by: Poonam, Library Facilitator (FLN Member, Maharashtra)