CHENNAI: Chennai readers don’t seem to want to part with their books — even with the threat of e-books taking over the reading world, old time libraries continue to cater to loyal customers.
Easwari Lending Library in T Nagar is approached by a tiny, narrow inconspicuous staircase; the furniture and interiors may not be updated in the style of the time but the books certainly are. A much used copy of Jhumpa Lahiri’s recent The Lowland lies next to rows of Mills and Boons and Dan Browns. The books are constantly updated, especially children’s books, to keep their circulation going.
“Geronimo Stilton, the Wimpy Kid series and fantasy fiction like Percy Jackson are fast moving. Harry Potter still remains an all time favourite,” says G Dhanashekar, the librarian in-charge of the T Nagar Branch. Satish Kumar, the MD of Easwari Lending Library, adds, “Enid Blyton and classics are still read by children even if they do it only because their parents force them to!”
The library, which has been running for 30 years, has been used by some families for three generations. Trying to keep up with new age libraries like Just Books, they have introduced door delivery of books, and issue and return across different branches. “We have begun libraries in gated communities like DLF and L&T. This has been especially successful among senior citizens, as most amenities like swimming pools cater to the youngsters,” says Satish Kumar.
Although there are common laments on the reduction in the reading habit among children, Ravi, the librarian in charge of Eloor Lending Library, says adults may be reading less but around 75 per cent of their circulation is children’s books. “Moreover, people still want to physically select books. The charm has not quite gone yet,” he says.
He is confident of the popularity of the library, and Eloor has not yet seen the need to change or come up with schemes and offers to lure customers. “We don’t advertise, but we have a very large collection, so our customers are happy,” he says.
Satish Kumar too believes that there has not been any drastic impact on the library because of e-books. “The reduction in readership, I would say, happened around 15 years ago, with the advent of cable television. But then people got bored and started coming back,” he says.
But the younger generation seems to feel otherwise. Buying books online and using e-readers seem a good option to them. Vaishnavi, a young professional and avid reader, says she still uses libraries but she does not see that lasting much longer. “I am loyal to books, but most of my friends prefer e-books and I don’t see anything wrong in it. Even my grandfather has now begun using an e-reader. The cost is not exorbitant and, especially for people on the move, it is convenient,” she says.