Padhma : CBC Tablog II – One aspect of Chennai I would like to change

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.[1].  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[2]. 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.

[1]  “Seminar to focus on Chennai’s growth potential”. The Hindu. 21 August 2008. Retrieved 28 December 2012.

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/oct/08/literary-fiction-improves-empathy-study

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padhs2k Written by:

Another dream-chaser.

10 Comments

  1. Bragadeesh Prasanna
    August 26
    Reply

    Padma, I guess the politicians do not see reading as a hobby for people. But they are afraid of people who read. Think about the consequences. What if the mass start to think? Where will the political parties go? Good one as usual. Left a bigger comment in fb 🙂

    • padhs2k
      August 26
      Reply

      Haha. You have a good point there Bragadeesh! Reading does broaden our vision and raises awareness amongst people..what if we question them…oh no, that cannot be allowed to happen!! Sigh. I really wish this change happens at some point. I would love if everyone can afford the pleasure that literature brings to our lives 🙂

  2. There is the problem of people not returning books and its hard to track them in India, if its even worth the effort but I would still love for this change to happen in Chennai. Maybe a little bit of optimism will takes us places!

    • padhs2k
      August 26
      Reply

      Optimism. Strict rules. Responsible public. I am sure out of 100 people at least 80 of them would benefit from reading. The rest might think about not returning books..but I am hoping the government sets up a book-officer who checks on people by calling them and perhaps even goes to their home when they don’t return books after a month…one can dream, right? 🙂 But I really think the 80 people would feel grateful.

    • Neelamegan
      August 26
      Reply

      Ms.Susmitha sivanesan,
      Like the free delivery of rations for stomach,house to stay,cloths during pongal for dress,TV with 24 hours song and dance-the govt is taking care of the basic needs.But the same govt is permitting night soil carrying,scavenger, more than 5 tasmac in evry street.
      Why lib and why make them to think. thinking is for the elite.
      People do not return(your remark)
      -like the free delivery arrange for free collection or make the Tasmac as a delivery centre.think,think,think………….

  3. Reading also teaches us a lot of life lessons and will make us understand more about people and their intentions.

    I think, better, those books could be digitized and the eBook versions could be freely given to public. People can read using smart phones, kindle, tablet or laptop. But of course, there are a lot of people who don’t own such gadgets and for them, it would be a good idea to open up lending from public libraries.

    Destination Infinity

    • padhs2k
      August 27
      Reply

      Yep..reading has so many benefits. If only the govt understands this.
      Ebooks is a great idea for the elite..that’s another project to make them all digitilized. Again, like you said, people who don’t have such gadgets or are not familiar with them would be in the dark. But I still love the smell of books..never preferred ebooks so far. 🙂

      • If you buy a (basic) e-Ink Kindle, you’ll start liking eBooks. That’s what happened to me!

        Destination Infinity

        • padhs2k
          August 29
          Reply

          Hmm..I don’t mind being gifted one 😉 You are right though, I haven’t given it a try. I guess I like the old style flipping on pages, and using a bookmark to read..

  4. Neelamegan
    August 29
    Reply

    some can comment on the difference between the conventional book and e book.As and when you feel like reading with the book you could read.But e book-wifi/inet/power availability and focussing etc,. are part and parcel.
    Evolution has brought the young and elite not to” pis” even when
    the women folk are crossing in the daylight and spitting too.
    We can pass comments like this and one day like Mr.Obama,Mr.Modi have occupied the highest position thinkers like above may may come but the team and support oooooop.
    Ok.Self pity.Escape under population,casteism,multiple languages,untouchability and so on……

Yes, go on, tell me what you think!