BELAGAVI: Pratiksha Mohan Kolamuskar, a Class VII student, had never set foot in her village library in Bidi until recently. She didn’t think there was anything interesting to find there. The rented building that housed the library was badly lit and poorly ventilated, and had barely about 2,000 books. But with its recent makeover, the library has brought out the bookworm in children and adults alike in this village.
“I never miss a chance to go to the new and advanced library,” Pratiksha says. The library has already taught her something she didn’t know before. “There is a separate section for girls. There are women-centric books that we love to read,” she says. She also enjoys reading short stories, comics about Akbar and Birbal, and mythological stories.
The library in Bidi, Belagavi district, underwent a transformation, thanks to the efforts and imagination of Panchayat Development Officer Ganesh Kalale and other officials who revamped it in a manner that reflects the essence of the state government’s Oduva Belaku programme. Ganesh, along with Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer Darshan H V, Taluk Panchayat Executive Officer B V Adavimath and other gram panchayat officials planned and carried out the library’s makeover after Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Secretary Uma Mahadevan Dasgupta issued a circular last year directing panchayats to implement the Oduva Belaku programme.
Construction of a new building for the library was completed by November 2020 at a cost of Rs 8 lakh with funds from the Gram Vikas Yojana and the 14th Finance Commission. The following month, they added furniture, and Assistant Commissioner of Belagavi taluk Ashok Teli contributed 400 books. Belagavi Central Library donated 800 and the Gram Panchayat bought 150 books.
On January 1, the panchayat opened the doors of the new library, which keeps a stock of multiple newspapers and magazines, 4,500 physical books in English, Kannada, Marathi and Hindi, and access to around 40,000 e-books through the Karnataka Public Library (www.Karnatakapubliclibrary.com) via computers. But Ganesh says that the new library was as much about the right infrastructure as it is about atmosphere. “Our objective is to create and facilitate a pleasant environment for senior citizens who love to read. We also want to attract the younger crowd,” says Ganesh.
The panchayat officials decorated the place with potted plants, and cleared the garbage from the vicinity of the new building and created a lawn where people can read. This design has worked well and children often sit on the lawn engrossed in their books, and when they look up from the page, they see walls decorated with paintings and quotes. To foster a culture of learning, panchayat officials also fulfilled a long-standing demand of the villagers. Near the new building is an open well that was dug in 1924 and has since dried up. The panchayat restored the well, sending out the message of conservation and restoration of water bodies - an important one for a region that is often drough-hit.
Taluk Panchayat Executive Officer B V Adavimath said, “The purpose of such a state-of-the-art library is to develop a reading habit among the young generation. Reading could also help people become wiser.”
Pundalik Katekar, one of Bidi’s 8,400 residents, perhaps speaks for rural communities over the world when he says that the library will help level the playing field for the young people of the village. The library caters to hundreds of students in two private high schools, two pre-university colleges, a degree college, an Industrial Training Institute and a Dr BR Ambedkar Residential School in Bidi, and also those from villages in a 10km-radius.
“There are many students from poor families who cannot buy books to study for competitive exams or shell out money to access computers. Such students will greatly benefit from the access to books and computers and they can study, apply for examinations and jobs from here. This library will ultimately help shape the career of our youth,” he said.