KOCHI: Twelve-year-old Yashoda Shenoy once failed to return the books she had lent from a library near her house in Mattancherry. “On returning the books a day or two after the day I was supposed to, I was fined for the delay. The library also charges an amount as membership fees. Though both are common practices, it got me wondering. How will children from low-income families read or be members of a library? Isn't reading a basic right? They wouldn't go anywhere near if they are charged money to read,” she says.
Answering the question on her own, Yashoda now runs a library where membership is free and members are not fined in case of delay in returning books. Christened 'Yashoda's Library', the library boasts a collection of over 3,500 books and 120 members. Since the start of the library in January, people from far and near have been sending books to Yashoda.
“When I told my dad about starting a library, he posted on Facebook appealing to like-minded people to donate books for the selfless service. Sometime later, a family friend sent books worth Rs 10,000. That was the beginning,” says the Class VII student of T D High School in Mattancherry. Subsequently, Yashoda's father Dinesh Shenoy, an artist, converted a part of his gallery to accommodate all the books. “Initially, the books were stacked on the floor. But another family friend built racks for the books and installed ceiling fans,” says Dinesh.
Apart from donations, Yashoda's Library also has books collected and restored from the nearby scrap shops. “It is saddening to find new books that are barely used thrown away so irresponsibly. Once, I found two book sets gifted by former MP K V Thomas to students who secured top marks in Class X and XII students. Though it is sad that even brilliant students are throwing away books, I am comforted by the fact that I get to save them,” says Yashoda.
The library contains over 2,500 books in Malayalam and about 1,000 in English. “We have books for people of all ages, including children's books. We have had parents and children rush into the library to complete their assignments. Furthermore, the youngest member of the library is a two-and-half-year-old toddler in the neighbourhood,” she says.
To the well-wishers visiting the library, the last thing Yashoda asks is to donate books from their personal book collections. The young librarian recently wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the same. “I am now waiting for his response. I hope he will send me books,” she says.