Micro-libraries help more kids to read

Bangalore Education

More than 100 underprivileged children in Bangalore now have access to new micro-libraries across the city of Bangalore.

A new micro library was set up in Hebbal. Over 50 children assembled for their turn to visit the newly set up micro library.The in-charge asked the next child approaching with excitement for her next book, “What would you like to read next?”

It was uncommon to see a child touch the pages of the book, or to hear them describe the stories they read.Children were seen flipping through the pages of their new book. While others were holding the first book they ever received.

This small bird feeder-structured library was seen as pushing the boundaries for young minds.

Smitha Hemmigae, co-founders of Belakoo Trust, who initiated their first ever micro-library said, “Our vision is to enable quality K-10 (A curriculum for the compulsory years of schooling) education for children from underprivileged communities. Thus, as part of the initiative we came up with micro-libraries located in areas where underprivileged children as well as young children and adults can access the library.”

Micro-libraries are compact cupboards filled with books set up on the footpath. A Belakoo representative said in a report, they set them up to instill an interest in reading among children.

Dr. Shivananda Koteshwar, educationist and mentor at Belakoo said, “We started this initiative in February 2021.Within the span of one year, we were able to go from three to ten such micro-libraries across the city of Bangalore, holding up to 100-150 books, ranging from magazines and comic books to encyclopedias.”

A goal of the mission is to encourage children to learn and spark their interest in learning. “We started looking for ways and solutions that could aid our goal; and settled on the idea of micro-libraries. Collaboration with TrashCon, an organization working towards eradicating waste menace, led to the creation of these mini bookshelves made from recycled materials. Our aim was to create something that was made of sustainable materials,” Smitha said.

“At any given time, we have 100 to 150 kids accessing these libraries, and most of the ones in Avalahalli are for children. There are about 100 children in that school, and all of them have access to that library. Similarly, the library in Malavalli has an even larger number of children. Around 200 to 250 underprivileged children typically get access to the nine libraries we have in Bangalore,” she added.

 In Hebbal where the first library is situated, there are a lot of migrant workers as well as labourers’ children. “About 50 of these children attend our Sunday classes under the 100 smiles 100 skills programme. They have access to the library along with other underprivileged children who live in the same area,” said Dev Patil, volunteer at Belakoo.

Akash and his wife, who both work as migrant labourers, are happy to see their children now have access to story books. “They look forward to visiting micro libraries every Sunday,” Akash said.

Several other migrant labourers said their children would read their stories to them every night and this made them very happy.

The first few libraries’ funds were raised by a 14-year old girl in the US, Sanjana Jilla. She had heard about this initiative and how they worked with these children. “She worked with us on certain curriculum-based elements, raised money through friends, families and everybody she knew,” Shivananda said.

D Shashi Kumar, an educationist, said, “In my opinion, micro-libraries is a great concept. The underprivileged cannot afford to buy books, and 80 percent of government schools have no access to quality books. It is a harsh fact that many children live without any story books during their childhood.”

Though it’s a good initiative, he added that it is important to keep access in mind. “Since this initiative is a pilot project, there can be challenges around who is assisting it and how many are ready to volunteer to keep count of children who can access it and how well the planning is taking place.”

Smitha explained the benefits of the concept. “Having a book in your hands increases your ability to think creatively, think logically, as well as to expand your imagination and creativity. Which is why we decided to invest in this concept,” Smitha said.

The libraries work with local people willing to take charge. “There is a single point of contact (SPOC) we identify for every library that we set up. They sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and they take care of the maintenance of the library, stocking of the library, doing book donation drives as well,” she said.

Over the next several years, they plan on opening 50 to 60 new micro-libraries.“We would like it to be placed on a main road or at any other location that is accessible for anyone living near a tree so it won’t be continually dug up by police,” Dev added.