The team of five that handles the everyday operations at Eloor Library in T Nagar, has gotten used to dwindling footfalls over the years. Ironically, they are seeing more visitors than the library can even accommodate at one point in time, just as they are preparing to shut shop.
Owner Anup Luiz is somewhat bemused by the turnout, but says he reminds himself and his team to be grateful. “There was a traffic snarl the other day, and the staff is trying to figure out ways to politely tell everyone not to crowd around as we have limited space,” he says.
Luiz, who has been struggling to keep the library — and its branches in other cities — afloat for years, recalls one recent meeting in which his auditor had pointed out, “If half the people who came to buy books had come to read, we would not be in this position.” He reiterates the need to be grateful, and adds that the decision to close shop had already been taken. “We can’t change this decision now,” he says.
He also adds that — as the news spread — a number of old-timers and early members of the lending library got in touch with him, asking if anything could be done to prevent the closure. Luiz acknowledges that they meant well, “but I was the one going over the numbers time and again, and could see how difficult the situation was. I explained it to them.”
Patrons’ responses have not been the only tough part of the situation, for Luiz. “My brother passed away in April, and my mother and I are the only ones left in the family. I ask her not to stress about it,” he explains. The chain, which the family has built over decades, had seen its Delhi branch close as well, last year.
Such is the rush at Eloor that extra hands had to be brought in to help the already beleaguered staff. “Two of my managers have come in from Kerala to help out,” says Luiz, “I’ve asked them to ensure that the staff here is not overworked and is taking proper breaks, and had to make the manager of the Chennai branch take a mandatory day off.”
“They have been the best staff,” reiterates Luiz, recounting how they have been dealing with the downfall in operational funds day after day for years. Such is their attachment to the library that, on hearing about the closure, an auditor who had worked at the library years ago came back to help. “She puts in hours outside of her current job whenever she can,” says Luiz.
Children’s books, in particular, have been flying off the shelves, he says, “but the staff has not really been able to take up the final numbers” of books sold.