Published: 12th October 2020
Through her book collection drive, Uma Mahadevan Dasgupta hopes to populate the children's section in rural libraries
Rashmi Patil speaks to Uma Mahadevan Dasgupta, Principal Secretary, RDPR, about the book collection drive she's initiated to develop the children's section in the rural libraries across Karnataka
Libraries should not be meant only for adults, they must be a place for children to read and disseminate their thoughts and ideas, believes Uma Mahadevan Dasgupta, Principal Secretary of the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR). And this is what they are planning to implement in the rural libraries across Karnataka. A few months ago, the Government of Karnataka Public Libraries transferred the Gram Panchayat libraries to the RDPR for the overall development and management. "Soon after we took charge of the management of 5,622 rural libraries across the state, I held a meeting to find out how many libraries are working and how many are not. Then, we brainstormed some ideas to figure out how to make these libraries functional and attract people in these rural areas towards reading. At this point, we also thought of creating a children's section — for the age group of 6-14 years," explains Uma.
Uma and her team created some unique posters to post on social media and paste them on the walls of these libraries. The RDPR department requested individuals and organisations to generously donate new or gently used books for children. "This initiative is called 'Donate the Gift of Reading'. When I tweeted this poster through my Twitter handle, I also told people about the various collection points for these books. Though we didn't see much response on the first two to three days, we did not lose hope. Soon, thousands of individuals and organisations including NIMHANS, Pratham Publishers, a non-profit organisation called Yuva, and others donated boxes of books. Then, St Joseph's Boys' High School allocated a place for us in their campus and we made it a collection point for a few days. A lot of people came by to drop off their books."
Till date, Uma and her team have collected nearly 15,000 books which will be later distributed among all the rural libraries in Karnataka. Apart from the book collection drives, the RDPR has plans to form a Gram Panchayat committee to take care of the libraries. These committees can conduct various fun activities for kids and adults too. Since the RDPR is keen on developing the reading habit in these kids, they will also announce their membership plans for kids soon. Uma explains, "We know it is a difficult time at the moment and many people have lost their jobs, so they might not have enough to deposit towards the membership. In such cases, the Gram Panchayat will deposit this money on their behalf. We will be providing books both in English, Kannada and the language that is mostly prominent in their villages. These books will either be storybooks or something related to their school curriculum