The Bansa Community Library, where books and conversations inform the people
A community library in Bansa village has become a space for conversations, gathering information and reading for pleasure. The library has 1,700 registered members, both adults and children from the neighbouring villages in Hardoi district, Uttar Pradesh.
Aishwarya Tripathi 25 Aug 2023 6:45 AM GMT
Santoshi Devi may not know how to read and write. But she garnered important information at the Bansa community library where she works as a cleaner. In the course of a conversation with a visitor, she learnt about the Uttar Pradesh Government’s women helpline number, 1090.
“I have been part of monthly meetings held at the library. We often discuss topics like ‘apka pradhan kitna saksham hai’ [How capable is your village leader?] and it is through such conversations that I know about a lot of things I didn’t before,” 50-year-old Devi told Gaon Connection.
Inaugurated in the village in December 2020, Bansa Community Library is open to all — with no bar on age, gender, caste or class. The library has 1,700 registered members, both adults and children from the neighbouring villages in the district.
The library was the dream of 25-year-old Jatin Lalit Singh. He wanted to create a space in Bansa village — his hometown — where people could read for pleasure. His objective was to create a reading culture and sustain it in the long run. The library was established with social media and offline crowdfunding. It has two librarians. It is open seven days a week, with extended hours on Sundays from 9 am to 7 pm.
Today, 76-year-old Mahendra Singh, a farmer who has worked hard all his life, has made time for himself to come here and borrow books. Mahendra Singh visits the library everyday and issues almost five books per week.
“I am too old for farm work and my sons and grandsons have their own lives to live. These books have filled my time and they keep me occupied,” Singh told Gaon Connection. He is a big fan of Munshi Premchand, he said.
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Mahendra Singh said he spent a better part of his day reading and in the evenings he took a walk to the library to exchange the books and catch up with others there.
“When the library became functional, we met so many women and men in their 70s visiting. For many of them, they were handling books for the first time in their lives,” Jatin told Gaon Connection.
The idea of starting a community library in his village came to Jatin from The Community Library Project [TCLP] in New Delhi, where he volunteered on weekends, when he was a student of law in Delhi in 2016. TCLP has set up three libraries that are open through the week in Delhi and Gurugram, catering to a membership of over 6,000 children and adults.
While finding the money to set up the library was not that difficult, mobilising the community to start reading for pleasure was, he said. The library runs a monthly ‘Kanoon ki Pathshala’. The village inhabitants meet an advocate virtually, who informs them about their rights and tells them how to seek legal help if they need to.
Sant Kumar is still a busy farmer, and a MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) worker, but he makes sure he visits the library on his way back home from work.
“I come here to read the newspaper. Many times, we get into discussions and debates with fellow readers about some news article,” he told Gaon Connection.
Thanks to Kanoon ki Pathshala, he knows that he must be given 100 days of work annually under MGNREGA.
“If I don’t, I have the right to approach the pradhan and also get bhatta [compensation] for the same,” he stated.
Rakesh Kumar reads the patrikas [magazine] and picks up environment news that he incorporates in his life as well as that of the community.
“It was in the library that I learnt how grave the problem of water scarcity is. We are close to exhausting our water supply, I know now,” he said.
Jatin views the library as the catalyst that’s driving a change in the community not just in terms of information, education and reading but also in motivating the villagers to lead a cleaner, healthier and a life of quality.