This post is a part of – CBC Tablog II. CBC stands for Chennai Bloggers Club where the bloggers are united by their love for Chennai. And about this Tablog, around 30 bloggers are participating in this tag game and each one will blog on the topic – “One aspect of Chennai I would like to change”. So read on to find out what aspect of Chennai that I would like to change. Amrutha blogged prior to me. She blogs at http://amruthawrites.wordpress.com. Do check her blog!
Sometimes in life, we get so used to doing something (a task or even taking a route to work) a particular way, that we would be surprised to know there exists a different way to do the same thing. Similarly we get so used to following a particular system in India, that one wouldn’t even be aware that other countries are following a different, more efficient way for the same system. One such aspect that took me by surprise was the difference in how we perceive a public library system in Chennai and US.
Now we don’t really have a “public” library in Chennai, do we? Sure, we have Anna Centenary library, with over 35,174 books worth £1.275 million but it mostly has curious visitors than ardent readers…and there is Connemera library we all know about but rarely visit. Now if the libraries were truly for the public, shouldn’t the public be allowed to become a member, borrow books and read them in the comfort of their homes? The current library system functions more like museums – we can visit them and only look around!
Anna library or Connemara might be useful for researchers who are willing to spend hours and days in the library but never for the ordinary public. There exists private lending library, you say? But not everyone can afford them. There are thousands of people who love to read books, but cannot afford to buy them all the time or afford a private library’s membership fee for that matter. There are people whose monthly salary would just be enough to pay rent and their kid’s education, but who yearn to read Sujatha’s works or Ludlum’s books. And there exists kids in middle class who don’t even know how much they love comics until they have actually seen one…
So a change that I would like to happen in Chennai is to first transform Anna and Connemara to public lending libraries with no membership fee so that everyone with a valid ID and address proof, can borrow books to read. These are amazing libraries with so much unused potential. And that’s just the beginning. There are 155 wards in Chennai, that is split into 10 Zones as per Chennai Corporation. Ideally, I would like the government to build a public library for each ward. But to begin with, they could start introducing such a public lending library system for the 10 zones, see how well they do and then build libraries for the wards within each zone.
These public libraries should be such that anyone who loves to read, irrespective of whether they belong to lower / middle / upper-middle / upper / ultra-upper class – should be able to borrow books and read them in the comfort of their homes, without having to worry about membership fees. Anyone with a valid Aadhar card and genuine address proof should be able to join. One membership per household. 5 books can be allowed to be checked out at a time for 21 days. Fine needs to be paid if the books are lost or returned in bad shape.
Yes, it may be difficult in the beginning, but everything would be so in the beginning. If the government is worried about people stealing their books and not returning it, well, all I could say is, they shouldn’t be too quick to judge people. There are always bad apples mixed in the lot, but in all it would definitely be beneficial to the society.
As for monetary funds for such libraries to work – According to the Confederation of Indian Industry, Chennai is estimated to grow into a US$100–billion economy by the year 2025.. When one can afford to provide so many free items during election time, even have the funds to build Anna library, they can definitely allocate money to build such public libraries. If they want India to have creative people who invent stuff and get recognition for India, they need to invest accordingly and reap benefits later. The logistics are not hard, they just need time, vision and money.
I personally think the government doesn’t realize the importance of reading..they think reading is just to pass time, like going to a movie. There are so many benefits to reading books. They have proved that reading literary fiction improves social empathy. It develops analytical skills, it helps to develop imagination, improve cognitive skills, helps to think critically and creatively.. and is an absolute exquisite pleasure! When we read a book, images begin to take shape in our mind and we actually create the same characters in our head..reading makes us creators! (that’s why many readers generally feel a book-turned-movie is never as they as expected it to be!) I am sure this change would help India get more innovators than head-nodders.
I now pass the baton to Aravind Kumar who blogs at http://aravindkumar.com/blog.
 “Seminar to focus on Chennai’s growth potential”. The Hindu. 21 August 2008. Retrieved 28 December 2012.