Neeza Singh, the librarian behind the bouquet of workshops and other interactive programmes at the Central State Library in Sector 17, tells Chandigarh Newsline that books are not only a window to the world but also give you a chance to explore your imagination.
Tell us a little about the library and its history?
T S Central State library was set up in 1955. It is a public library and anyone can be a member.
When did you take over as the librarian?
I joined this library in 2004. At that time, I was in charge of the reference section and I tried to introduce a host of new things like quizzes and displays on current topics. We bought a lot of reference books related to current occasions and I tried to make the library more lively and interactive by promoting participation among students and people. In 2008, I was given charge of the children section. It was a challenge at that time because there were not many readers or activities for them. I launched the tradition of hosting workshops, which has been continuing ever since. The notable part is that these workshops are free of cost.
What are the new initiatives you have taken?
As I mentioned earlier, I introduced workshops for children with resource persons. Initially, it was a challenge to get children to attend the workshops. But once it started, we started attracting more and more children. We also started orientation of schools by inviting them to visit the library. Initially, we had to call our members to attend our workshops, but now there is such an overwhelming response that we have to say ‘no’ to many people. I have been coordinating various activities such as poetry meets, book releases, competitions for children. I am also doing outreach activities for underprivileged in slums, village children, government school children, old age homes and more.
Over the years, has the readership declines?
I think it is rising now; in the middle, it declined due to the digital era, but people are now realising the negative impact of digital reading on their eyes and posture. Many parents say that their children started wearing spectacles at very early age. I know some parents who have even stopped their kids from watching TV at home and have even taken away their mobile phones. These kids, then come to the library and spend their time reading.
What are the most preferred books among children?
They read classics like Ladybird series, Geronimo Stilton, and Enid Byton etc. We get all the books they want.
How can parents make children take to books?
I think they should get the children to the library to help them find books and imbibe in them the library culture. Library is not just about books alone, it’s also about community engagement. We involve people in different kind of activities. For instance, we do story-telling sessions and by listening to stories, a child starts wanting to read stories. We also have theme-based story telling.
How many new books do you add and how often? How do you choose what books to get?
Every year, we add around five to six thousand new titles. We have a State Library Planning Committee, which meets twice a year and invites books from publishers and book suppliers. These books are displayed and the committee selects the books for the library. This is also done in accordance with the demand of the readers. We have a demand register in almost every section of the library.
Why should we return to libraries?
I think library is one place where you get knowledge in all its glory. I mean, coming to the library, holding a book in your hands and sitting in the lawn or just looking around…it’s a great feeling. If you just browse through books, you come to know what is there on the shelf. Even this process is enlightening. Feeling the smell of the books on the shelves gives you a different kind of satisfaction. I think people should come back to the library culture because it gives you a very positive state of mind. Digital platform or TV, they give you the exact picture of the story, but with a book, you can let your imagination take flight. And that is priceless.