The district branch library in Pallavaram is less than a kilometre from GST Road, and yet it could be hard to locate. With the GPS in my mobile guiding my way, I set out to visit the library last weekend. After a 10-minute drive from GST Road to Chavadi Street via Dargah Road, the GPS said I had arrived. I looked around but there was no sign of a library. I asked a group of schoolgirls on their way back home and they had no clue either. I asked another passerby and it turned out that I was in fact, standing right in front of the library.
The library occupies a small portion of the building owned by a private trust for a monthly rent of ₹1,000. The three-room library has a collection of over 42,000 books and 5000-plus membership, says B. Anbazhagan, the additional librarian. “Twenty to thirty people visit the library every day. Tamil novels are borrowed the most; they seem to be a big hit among women in the neighbourhood. Apart from residents, a few youngsters come here to refer books to prepare for competitive exams,” he adds.
Anbazhagan says enrolment by students is nothing much to write home about and he blames the the younger generation’s dependence on electronic media and gadgets for this situation.
“Although there are electronic devices that offer considerable reading material, the habit of reading itself is waning. School students hardly ever drop by. Every month, we distribute books to the government schools in the neighbourhood to promote the habit of reading and we are also encouraging them to use the library in the morning or after-school hours. I am asking people to donate books in an effort to draw more people,” he says.
Krishnamurti, an active member, who comes to the library every day, thinks this branch library would do well with some visibility. “The library does not even have a signboard and a first-timer could mistake it for any other building. The government should focus on restoring and upgrading facilities at branch libraries. The government should also bring in some interesting activities like a student reading circle, competitions and book-reading and story-telling sessions to attract more readers,” he says.
A space problem
The library at Bharathiar Street in Chromepet is also small and sandwiched between houses. It has one small reading room and another for storing books. The land for the library was donated and the construction cost for the building was borne by Lions Club in 1995. It has over 3,000 people enrolled as members and the library has a collection of over 25,000 books.
Except for the common practice of distributing books in schools, there aren’t any significant activities. “The place is too small to accommodate a large group of people at the same time. But we do conduct door-to-door campaigns in the locality to encourage more people to become members and active readers,” says the librarian Thenmozhi.