Panchayat library marches on with novel project to promote reading habit

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Panchayat library marches on with novel project to promote reading habit

Choornikkara panchayat president Raji Santhosh handing over a book to a member of the 500th household covered under the Aksharadeepam project of the panchayat library. 

The library at Choornikkara, a village near Aluva town, reached a landmark last week when it covered 500 households as part of its novel project, ‘Aksharadeepam’, of delivering books at the doorstep in an attempt to inculcate reading habit among women and children.

The panchayat library kicked off the project, arguably first of its kind by a local body library in the State, in June by deploying 50 trained volunteers drawn from among interested Kudumbashree members. The project has set a goal of covering 800 households, which the library remains confident of attaining by next month. Choornikkara panchayat has so far funded books worth around ₹1.50 lakh as part of the project, besides setting apart another ₹25,000 for accessories such as bags for volunteers to carry books.

“The project has been very successful, and the panchayat will continue the support to the initiative. We are also looking at digitising the library using corporate social responsibility funds,” said panchayat president Raji Santhosh.

Initially, 55 book kits carrying five books each were assigned to Kudumbashree volunteers visiting households in their respective areas once in a month. Since then, the number of books has been increased to 10 in view of the response from households.

“We are now planning to increase it further to 15 by adding a few English titles as well for which we have recently bought books worth around ₹20,000. There is demand for English books, especially for the benefit of students. We have mostly included in the book kits novels and short stories suited for attracting women and children into reading,” said K.R. Sunil Kumar, librarian.

The project seems to have served the purpose of inculcating reading habit going by the demand for multiple books in a single month from many households. Kudumbashree volunteers collect the books back and replace the book-kits from the library on the first Sunday of every month.

The project has evoked interest beyond the panchayat with the Department of Library Science of Rajagiri School of Social Sciences (RCSS), Kalamassery, taking it as a case study to ascertain its efficiency and benefit in promoting reading habit. RCSS has distributed a questionnaire figuring 16 questions as part of a survey among households towards that end.

“We want to analyse the project and explore the possibility of developing such projects in libraries in rural areas. The department conducts such surveys and try to improve reading habit among the public. We will focus on the public library system in the future,” said Neethu Mohanan, head, Department of Library Science, RCSS.

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