A colourful van drives through a village in the morning and stops under a tamarind tree. Children and adults are flocking to it. Tables and desks are set up near the tree, and soon, everyone gets busy reading.
This is a regular sight in villages of three mandals in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, thanks to the Sanchara Grandhalayam, a mobile library set up by the Rural Development Trust (RDT), an NGO based in Anantapur, working for bettering the lives of rural communities for the last 50 years in the region.
With the aim to promote education, as many as 16 villages were selected from Kosigi, Mantralyam and Kowthala mandals based on different social indicators ranging from literacy rate to social evils like child marriages and superstitions.
As part of the library outreach programme, RDT takes the mobile library to the 16 villages, one by one. These 16 libraries function like full-fledged public libraries and are managed by trained librarians from the villages. Each library has over 300 books, in addition to the regular newspapers and magazines.
M Krishnaveni, Trainee Director for Education with RDT and also in-charge of the mobile library initiative, said, “Most of these villages have low literacy rate and many school dropouts. Koisigi has the lowest literacy rate of 36.2%. We thought promoting the culture of reading among the rural folks could initiate some change.”
RDT had first started the initiative in 2017 with eight libraries, and now had grown to 16.
The NGO received immense support from the locals, who provided spaces in empty buildings or unused rooms to set up these libraries.
“It took us one or two years to take the idea to the people. But now, people are slowly getting used to reading. School-going children actively participate. The youngsters use a lot of books for competitive exams.”
The story of mobile Library
In July this year, RDT started the mobile van with as many as 3,700 books and 20 tablets and dozens of magazines in total. The collection includes a variety of books on fiction for children, science, mathematics, history, and magazines, in addition to spiritual books such as Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita.
N Sowjanya, a librarian, makes sure every village has a Mobile Library Day for every two weeks.
“We will reach the select village by 9 am, park the van near government schools to cater to school children. While the youth and adults prefer reading newspapers, children love short stories or books on recreational mathematics,” she said.
The van is also equipped with a TV, where videos on subjects such as science, history or mathematics will be played based on the request of the school management.
The Mobile Library Day in the villages like Kolamanpeta, Halvi, Arlabanda and Badinahal, Rampuram ends with extra curricular competitions in storytelling, painting and writing.
Discussing the readers who frequent the mobile library, Sowjanya says, "Kids like to read short stories, home makers enjoy embroidery training books and culinary books. Many also take competitive books to read at home. This is making an impact."
So, how does the village find out when the mobile library is visiting? With a catchy Telugu song that plays on a loud speaker and beckons them over.
And after positive response from book enthusiasts in the area, RDT is also considering to set up permanent libraries and expanding the reach of mobile library van.