Nashik is home to some very well-stocked and equally welcoming libraries. But where have all the members gone, and why don’t the libraries have more takers?
One of Nashik’s oldest private libraries, Busy Books in D’Souza Colony, is likely to pull down its shutters. Once teeming with children who’d devour the comics and book collection, the library is no longer a particularly popular hangout. “We used to have more than 700 members, with people coming even from 30 kms away. Now we barely have 70,” rues Ramesh Iyer, who founded the library 23 years ago. “It became an institution of sorts. I once had youngsters at a wedding in Pune come up to me and tell me how much they loved the library. I didn’t remember them, but they knew me,” he recalls. His collection is now 4,500 books strong, and includes everything from Mills & Boons to Thomas Hardy, the biography of Tipu Sultan to Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Iyer blames the ceaseless use of Internet and gadgets for the children’s absence from the library. “They also have too much academic pressure,” he believes. That’s why he is planning to target mainly senior citizens now. “One thought I have is to shift the collection to a room in my home. Children can come on the weekends if they want to. I won’t charge anyone any money, it’ll be a free library,” says Iyer, who plans to donate about 1000 of his books to an old age home cum hospital in Vashind. But the book-lover is reluctant to let go of the library, and hopes to find a way to restore the place to its former glory.
Carvi Resource Library
Ajit Barje and his wife Manisha own Carvi Resource Library on Nashik Road. Hidden away within a residential building, the library focuses on the environment and nature conservation. They started building their collection of books five years ago to encourage people to read and know more about nature. Apart from a 5000-book collection, which includes general fiction and non-fiction, the Barjes also stock and sell books from non-commercial publishers such as National Book Trust and Children’s Book Trust.
About two years ago, the Barjes became the first and only individuals to partner with the British Council library. “We take care of all their memberships for the online academic library, which has a collection of 80,000 ebooks and 14,000 e-journals,” reveals Barje. Ideal for students above Class XII, doctors, chartered accountants and other professionals, the membership costs `1,100 per year. Currently the collection contains academic books about subjects ranging from agriculture to military studies, but Barje reveals that the library may also make their collection of fiction available online soon.
Sarvajanik Vachanalaya, Nashik
Run by a charitable trust, this government supported library lays claims to several superlatives. Set up by the British in 1840, it is Nashik’s first, oldest and largest library. Spread across several stories and over numerous rooms, the impressive collection of 1,75,000 books includes English, Marathi, Hindi and Sanskrit books. “We also have rare manuscripts and other books that are 1700-1800 years old,” offers librarian SS Vaidya, who has been working at the Shalimar library for almost 30 years.
Over the past four years, the library has been undergoing modernisation. “We have computerised our catalogues and use barcoding. We have also started giving our members smart cards,” says Vaidya. The large steel cupboards lined up in neat rows contain everything from historical biographies to Hindi translations of the Harry Potter series. The collection is updated regularly, and you’re very likely to spot the latest John Grisham sitting next to a 30-year-old lovingly maintained leather bound copy of Shakespeare’s plays.
Annasaheb Murkute Public Library and Study Hall
Managed and maintained by the charitable trust it is named after, the library’s infrastructure and collection of books comes from the Nashik Municipal Corporation. Set up 18 years ago, the library and reading room tucked away in Sharanpur Road’s Pandit Colony offers six-monthly memberships, and is ideal for students preparing for competitive exams. Perhaps it is its academic bent that has ensured that memberships come pouring in every term.
“Membership gives the students access to the collection of 20,000 books, half of which are academic in nature, periodicals, newspapers, as well as a guidance counsellor who comes in twice a week. The psychologist offers advice regarding their career choices as well as any other problems they need to discuss,” explains librarian Anand Jadhav. The library, which is closed only on national holidays, is also planning to set up computers as well as an internet connection for the use of members.
It’s possible that this charming two-storied library has stolen some of Busy Books’ thunder. Founded by Sangeeta Upadhyay and her husband in 2002, after the latter returned with a postgraduate degree from the USA, the library has a larger collection and also a presence on the Internet with a dedicated website as well as a Facebook page. “That helps members check if a particular book is available with us from the comfort of their home,” explains Upadhyay, who also offers to customise plans to suit the customer.
However, this Mahatma Nagar library has also noticed a sea change in the number of children who visit. “Parents are keen on enrolling children in activities like dance, music or a sport. They aren’t encouraging them to read. They don’t realise, but that’s an equally important habit, essential for their overall development. If they bring their kids along to the library, they can select a book of their choice. It will help them improve their vocabulary too,” she says. Apart from an interesting collection of children’s books, the library also stocks Marathi and English non-fiction, philosophy, Indian fiction and academic books.