THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Suma Santhosh vividly remembers how she used to wait impatiently for Thursdays to arrive. That was the day a neighbourhood boy Vimal would arrive on his bicycle with bags full of books. She, along with the children in the neighbourhood would pounce on the books. “In those days, books were our only source of entertainment. During our vacations, we would ask him to come thrice a week,” recalls Suma fondly. “As both my parents were working, we couldn’t visit libraries often and books were too expensive to buy. There was a good collection of children’s fiction and magazines with Vimal. When a library arrives at your doorstep, it not only facilitates reading but also introduces children to the world of reading,” adds Suma, an avid reader who works at Gemini Software Solutions in Technopark.
Most of the city residents would have such an instance to recall when such ‘cycling librarians’ would arrive with stacks of books much to the delight of book lovers. Such libraries were also a solace to not just children but also those who were mobility impaired or the aging population. After the wide penetration of libraries, ‘cycling librarians’ as a breed more or less vanished.
But now, some libraries are reviving that legacy - to deliver books at the doorsteps of the readers. For instance, it was the request by a few readers that prompted Excel Lending Library in the city to deliver books to the doorsteps of its customers. “That was in 2004, two years since our inception. And since then, we have been delivering books as well,” said Sajeev N P, manager at the library. “Those who went out to deliver the books gave the customers a copy of our catalogue. And they would call us and reserve the books,” he added.
With the penetration of internet, the libraries have also assumed a new face. And so has the ‘cycling librarians’. Gone are the days when you had to drift past musty smelling racks of books in a library. Now, one cruises and reserves the books online so as to get them delivered right at one’s doorstep. As such the Excel Lending library started providing online services in 2014. Although there had been a decrease in footfalls for a brief period when Kindle caught the fancy of people, the number of members is only burgeoning, says Sajeev. “More and more people are returning to books,” he adds.
‘LetUsRead.in’ is another mobile library which has become popular in the state capital. When the strikingly decorated Maruti Alto of ‘LetUsRead.in’ cruises along the city, all stacked with books it draws curious stares. With no limit to the number of books that you can take, free delivery of books within 15 km radius of East Fort and a no penalty fee, the library has evoked a huge response from the book lovers in the city.
The online lending library was set up by Anand V Nair, who bid adieu to his job in IT in the US to start a unique venture to promote reading. The library offers its clients a host of services through its online website. The readers can use their account and choose the books they want to read and it will be delivered.
“My father had a massive personal collection of books. So I grew up reading, And it changed me,” he says. “On a business point of view, setting up libraries isn’t lucrative. But I wanted to promote reading. Reading can change you. At some point in your life, you transform,” he says. He adds a significant percentage of the readers opt for home delivery although they have a library functioning at Vanchiyoor. The library established in 2013 also provides free membership to readers from financially backward families and those aged above eighty years.