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Taking Libraries to People

Likhit Agrawal and Alisha Nathani, classmates, and software engineers from a college in Nagpur, were just like any other young, upwardly mobile software engineers into coding and software programming careers.

Likhit in Bangalore and Alisha in Nagpur, doing well in their respective work arenas. But COVID 19 lockdown and its aftermath changed their immediate working life, just as it did for many others.

The easing of Lockdown brought Likhit home in Nagpur, and life for him was like back to college days, chilling with classmates. He did not turn to books in the beginning, as it was gaming, binge-watching television and online entertainment platforms.

It was his classmate, Alisha, a voracious reader, and owner of several books thought it might be a good idea to spread the books around and take them to readers as most of the libraries were shut in the post-COVID-19 lockdown period as well.

But the books that Alisha and Likhit owned collectively were not enough to start a library that she had in mind. “So, we asked our friends and relatives, if they would also like to be a part of a lending library by lending us their books,” Alisha told Tricity Scoop over the phone from Nagpur.

“Also, we found that during the lockdown several had turned to read. So, to help them do so and save them money, we thought to make use of all the books lying around with us and our friends and relatives and started this ‘Library on Wheels’ from where anyone can take books to read, free of cost. This way, we can encourage more and more people to read the printed books, instead of e-books,” she said. And thus, was born the idea of ‘Library on Wheels’.

 “If people cannot go to libraries, let us take the library to them,” reasoned the duo, both 25, behind the idea.

Within days, they began putting it into practice.

Well, there was nothing much to worry about. All we needed was a table, a few cartons, notebooks, pens, and paper. Once we rustled these things up, I collected all the books (classics, novels, self-help books and the like) and neatly listed them, numbered them, put them in the trunk of the family car.

And our “Library on Wheels” was in motion, Likhit told Tricity Scoop over the phone from the premises of  Next Chapter Café, a Café-cum-Library at Shankar Park in Central Nagpur. We keep parking at different places so that it is accessible to more people.

The books, now totaling some 140, are lent to anyone free of cost. Anyone can take a book, read and return, free of cost.

The family car turns into a library on weekends. “I have reserved the car for this activity,” Likhit said and added, “our parents were already ready to lend their books even before we started on this well-meaning drive.”

“The idea has become a hit with all the evening walkers of this residential colony, where we park the car in the evening from 4 p.m. onwards and we are open till 7 pm. The response is pleasantly surprising to me and my friends. They all are eager to work with us and expand this idea, first here by lending more books, and more importantly by popularizing the mobile library across the city through social media and other channels of communication,” Likhit said.

In fact, there are many elderly persons who are keen to support the initiative, as it takes people away from their phones and computers and brings back the reading habit.

This is not something that is unique or different from being attempted in other cities, but the Library on Wheels is catching the people’s attention.

Would the people not run away with the books?

“Firstly, we get them to give all their details, and phone numbers, and then make a deposit equivalent to the cost of the book. Should they fail to return the book by the date they are supposed to, the deposit could be used to buy the same book,” Likhit said.

The deposit also ensures that only those with serious intent take the books. The cheapest book on offer is priced at Rs 30 and the costliest, at Rs 3,500. “If we lose this book, it is very difficult to procure the exact same title, for the simple reason that it is not available,” he said and added, and hoped “no one will go away with the books.”

“Within just a week, 40 books are in circulation. This response gives us tremendous encouragement. We are now planning to park the library on weekends,” said Alisha.

And what if Likhit’s company calls back all its workers for onsite work at the office?

“Well, then we will have two Libraries on Wheels, one in Nagpur and one in Bangalore,” was his answer as Alisha nodded in agreement.

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