A note on an introduction of the work of TCLP:
Sometime back I was reading an article titled “Unpacking a Library: Babasaheb Ambedkar and his World of Books'', where Ambedkar said, “that workers must think beyond their status as workers and acquire political self-knowledge.” I found it extremely important because having a political self knowledge helps to locate the identity and place of every individual in the society and the world at large. So that each one of us can speak for oneself individually and collectively as a part of the community.
However, the politics of giving access to knowledge and literature only to a particular section of society and keeping the big percentage away from it and normalising this visible power structure as well as invisible hierarchies are extremely dangerous to the evolution of self and the communities we belong to. This large percentage of the working class and caste oppressed section in India has not only been deprived of the open access to quality literature and education but also making sure that they continue to internalise power structure and institutionalised ways of oppression and hierarchies in their mind.
Therefore, to acquire ‘political self knowledge’, the rightful and just place in society, we need a free community library movement in India. The Community Library Project has been playing an active role in building the models of a free, excellent, inclusive, democratic, open spaces of libraries in Delhi and around the National Capital region. We have been working in a manner where our communities who had been historically marginalised would have the right to exercise ‘ownership’ over the library space. A library where they could imagine, design and create a space which could respond to their lives, families and communities needs. We have been constantly thinking and working on making the space of the library as the space belonging to the community. Where they could not just have conversations on the subjects of their interest and needs, but can produce and perform their culture without being judged and discriminated against.
This all has been possible because the vision and mission of the community library project is with us as a guiding light. We have been learning how to direct that light in our everyday work at the library and as a library movement. It guides us in finding a work philosophy.
Even it helped us in finding our way through COVID - Pandemic. Because of the lack of intention and preparation on part of the government at every level, our members and their families who are composed primarily of the working class and those oppressed by caste were hit by the pandemic very brutally. We reached out to our members in both the first & second waves and we witnessed the injustice and suffering through listening and recording their narratives. We made the effort to share the stories with the public and tried to get the government to listen to their voices. Right after the announcement of the lockdown in March - April 2020, we met and brainstormed about how we can still provide literature as diverse as possible to our members. Consequently, we build a digital library named “Duniya Sabki” (World is for all) and started providing stories, read aloud of stories in an audio, video and PDF format, setting up a library on our website, build a structure to help empower the community to know and fight for their rights.
TCLP’s culture of empowering ourselves by tapping into the power of the collective is best reflected in our young leaders, who are taking center stage in their communities and also developing as creative forces. Today, you all will hear the lyrical force that is 10TAKK - a rap duo of Shivek & Shivam, young men who are library members, community leaders and truth-tellers. They will present 2 tracks that question the status quo of the world they live in but also speak to the power of reading, thinking and finding one's voice.
TCLP's co-director Bhawna spoke at the conference on education in South Asia, especially after the pandemic, at the University of Oxford on 24th July 2021.