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Writing on the wall: Kochi’s libraries have lost readers

During the Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, many people re - turned to long-lost reading habits.

Published: 18th September 2021 07:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th September 2021 07:00 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: During the Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, many people re - turned to long-lost reading habits. According to leading bookstores in the city, their online sales increased during the pandemic. Few of the prominent libraries in the cities also claim to have seen a significant rise in the number of new members, despite a dull lull during the beginning of the pandemic. However, the situation is different for traditional libraries that were once filled with readers.

They are now struggling to attract visitors and their reference sections and had to stop regular subscriptions to many newspapers and magazines due to a lack of revenue. P Surendran, secretary of Mahatma Library in Thrippunithura, said they reopened the reading room in July to a low footfall. The l ibrar y in Thr ipunithura, which is nearly 90 years old, was famous for its role in social movements and was even visited by Mahatma Gandhi in 1934.

Many freedom fighters and social reformers were regular visitors there and were part of the regular functioning of the library. Surendran had been part of the governing body of the library for the past 45 years. “Only eight to 10 people come to the library regularly post the lockdown, even af ter the reading rooms were opened. Earlier, students used to visit the library, but they stopped coming af ter clas ses turned online,” he said.

EMS Cooperative Library in Kakkanad never had a dull moment before the pandemic but now, the air is thick with silence. The library has started a reading zone where five people can be present at a time adhering to Covid protocols. In the reference book section, only two people are allowed at a time, said librar ian Rajesh K D. “The library timing has been revised to 1pm-7pm on weekdays and 10am-5pm on Sundays. Children below the age of the years are restricted from visiting the library,” Rajesh said.

MIXED RESPONSE

Some libraries in the city are considering opening up their reading rooms and reference sections to the public for a longer duration. At Changampuzha Memorial Library too, regular visitors have stopped coming, says secretary Shajil V D. “From next week, we are planning to open during the evening to allow more readers. Currently, the library hours are from 10am to 1pm, which will be extended to 5pm to 6pm,” he added.

The Ernakulam Public Library is planning to open its reading space and reference space from next week after consulting with the district collector. “After an initial drop, the number of new members joining the library has increased. When the number of members before March 2020 was around 150, it dropped to around 70 and then to 50. However, the situation improved and now we get around 100 new memberships a month. The absence of other libraries also helped more footfall here,” said librarian Peter. The library is now open from 10am to 6pm now, which will be changed to 10am to 7pm in the next week.



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