A community library is that beacon of light that has the power to dispel the darkness of society by shining light on the knowledge and kindling the spirit of creativity among readers, whether they are the small kids, enthusiastic youth, or the elders of a community.
Having these thoughts in mind, three Law Students from Galgotias University, Noida decided to create community libraries in rural UP. One of the libraries started in early September this year, in the Cheruia Village in Ballia District and since its inception, it has already started to impact the lives of students who had to go to the city to find books they needed to make their dreams come true.
The 22-year-old Co-founder of the Cheruia Public Library, Jatin Lalit says that in most rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, girls are unable to continue higher education and not many boys are able to go beyond the 10th Grade as they start labor work or help in their family-run businesses and for some of those who are motivated enough to study, there is a lack of resources to pursue higher studies.
This sad reality is something that he, along with his College Senior and Co-founder, Praveen Kumar, and Batchmate Malvika Aggarwal, Director of Bansa Community Library, intend to change. Being the torchbearers of education in these villages, the trio has been working hard to bring foundational changes in the way people study, read and gain knowledge in these villages.
Today, on Dusshera, we share with you this incredible story of how with the intention to light the young minds with a spark of knowledge, the Founders of these community libraries are winning the battle against many evils of society that are there only because of lack of education.
Read on to know more and please stay with us till the end, because we will also tell how can you help in their efforts, which will go a long in making more than a thousand dreams come true.
The Initial Motivation to build Community Libraries…
From the year 2016, Jatin has been a part of The Community Library Project (TCLP)- a Delhi-based organization that focuses on setting community libraries in rural areas. Volunteering with them, he has helped in setting libraries through the organization, and with the many years of experience, he saw it first-hand the impact of a library on young minds. He recounts that he has seen students who could not read initially, but after coming to the libraries, they could read and speak fluently in English. All this sparked his motivation to do something similar in his village Bansa, and Cheruia, which is from where Praveen Kumar hails.
Together they realized that these villages had no community libraries and for the betterment of people in general and students in particular, the existence of a public library would be great.
Jatin says that starting a library is not that big a task, but to maintain and sustain it is one, and so the two Founders chose their hometowns so that even if they are away in the coming years, their friends and family can oversee the working of the library and thousands of people around the villages can keep reaping the benefits of community libraries.
Jatin says that there are basically two requirements for opening up a community library- one is the availability of a place, free of cost and the other is the willingness of at least 50 people who would want to visit the library regularly.
The disproportionate spread of resources around us has been cause of a phenomenon that often goes under radar. To break the chains, we need to actively work to rekindle flame of curiosity & joy of learning in people who have least amount of resources to enable this change.
— Cheruia Public Library (@CheruiaLibrary) August 17, 2020
And so started the journey…
While working on building the Cheruia Public Library, the first condition was met easily as Praveen was able to get permission from the local authorities to use an ancient public rest house in the village. They were given two rooms, a small hall, and a verandah where students could read outside.
The renovation work started, the library got painted and the bookshelves got built, all with the help of friends and acquaintances from the village. The great part is that all the villagers were very enthusiastic and supportive, during the days of the initial planning and also when the building was getting ready. He says, “When the building was being renovated, many villagers would come to us and ask when will this open, will you have books for us as well?” He says that their reactions fuelled more motivation to start the library as soon as possible.
The first condition was successfully met soon enough, but a little time-consuming was the meeting of the second condition as the team had to conduct surveys to find out, who exactly would be ready to come to the library. A survey was conducted in seven villages, for which the duo gathered 50 volunteers to ask the residents their opinions on starting a public library.
Through the survey, they found that around 110 students were preparing for government exams, but had no study materials with them. They also came to know that around 100 people were willing to come to the library regularly if there were books available for them.
Thus, within a few weeks, the Cheruia Public Library was up and running, with financial help from Praveen’s family and kind contributions from other villagers.
Procuring the Books
A library is soulless without books, and this is the task which is still going on because Jatin says that they intend to collect around 5000 books to cater to the needs of around 7000 people who can directly benefit from the library.
Starting their social media campaigns to procure books while the renovation work was on, the team created a wishlist on Amazon, from where people could donate as many books as they could.
This wishlist basically contains the books that are needed for the students appearing for competitive exams and the entire collection has been created for educational purposes.
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Apart from that, the team can also accept used books (in good conditions) from people who are ready to donate. They have a pickup facility for the Delhi region and if you are from other parts of the country, you can courier it directly to the library.
Going with these systems, the team has received around 700 storybooks and 200 coursebooks and the ones that are helpful in competitive exams, since starting the campaigning in August. The TCLP donated 100 storybooks and many others came because of kind strangers who fulfilled the Amazon wishlist and others have been the ones donated by people.
This is how the library is changing the face of the village…
Now that the library is functioning, there are more than 40 students who come every day and spend hours studying and reading. Some days, the numbers exceed 80 as well. In order to promote a basic reading culture, a separate reading room is available, where children from ages 7 till beyond and young people from 23-26 can come, along with elders till 60 years of age, who wish to read. Another space is available for students who are appearing for competitive exams.
Currently, only boys sit and study, and girls are able to issue books to take home. Jatin says that in rural areas, parents of young girls are hesitant to send them to public places, and usually accompany them when they issue books. The team is now planning to organize community walks with female volunteers to create awareness among the villagers, so that even girls can study in the libraries.
Till now, the Cheruia Public Library has been able to directly help 23 students get access to study materials for the National Defense Academy exam.
A class 12th student of the Cheruia village, Ayush Choudhary says that because of the library, he will be able to score more than 90% in his board exams and pursue B.Com later. He has been visiting the library every day since it started and says that although there are not many books for the 12th class students, there are other books for lower grades, that have been helping him strengthen the foundational concepts. Apart from that, he comes to the library as it is a good place to study with focus for a few hours and to clear his mind.
Apart from providing space for reading and studying, the team has been working to teach students as well. Currently, there are three college graduates who teach maths, logical reasoning, and Spoken English to young kids in the Cheruia village. Jatin says, “Currently, we are in the process of acquiring a laptop and a projector system so that more online classes can be held for villagers, for which several organizations are approaching us to impart knowledge through online lessons.”
The Curriculum Coordinator of the Team, Malvika Aggarwal is also in the process of coming up with special curriculums for ‘Social-Emotional Learning’, and ‘Political and Civic Learning,’ so as to teach kids these subjects as soon as possible.
So, you all can see, that the libraries here are not just a place for the storage of books, but are serving as holistic learning centers in the villages where a lot is going on so that quality education becomes easily available to people who were used to going to cities if they had to study further.
The Bansa Public Library
Situated in the Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh, Bansa is another village where the team is working hard to construct a public library. Jatin says that villagers in Bansa were very supportive, which is why they gave a plot of land to build the library building. He adds that they plan to construct a common hall for the books apart from two reading rooms – one for boys and the other for girls. The foundational work for the library has started, and the entire project is estimated to cost about Rs. 2,27,000.
The construction work for the Bansa Library is underway as we speak and you can help in building this temple of education for the villagers by visiting this crowdfunding page.
We are building first Library in Bansa village. The foundation that is being laid is not just of a building, but also of a better future for thousands of children and young adults. This library will positively impact the lives over 7000 people living in the 11 nearby villages. pic.twitter.com/7sMhweF0zd
— Bansa Community Library (@BansaLibrary) September 7, 2020
These community libraries have been started without any governmental help till now, are totally of a non-profit nature, so all your contributions can help these rural areas grow through education.
To know more about the progress of the Bansa Library and see how the one in Cheruia is changing the lives of people, do check out the following social media handles.
We at Smile To Shine applaud and salute the efforts of the team in everything that they are doing, please join us in helping spread the message and make their dream become a reality so that children can see more dreams in the coming years.