When in August 2017, Dimapur-based entrepreneur Imtisunup Longchar posted on Facebook his wish to set up a library, it was a shot in the dark. It had been four years since he returned to Nagaland from Delhi, and he couldn’t help noticing the lack of infrastructure for young people to read, meet, discuss or channelise their creativity. On an instinct, he floated the idea on social media. Today what is probably Nagaland’s only independent library can be traced back to that post.
“Only independent library that is functional,” Longchar adds. The state has about 80 Registered Rural Libraries spread across it districts but most are closed. “There is a State library in Kohima run by the government but people don’t even know it exists,” says Hekani Jakhalu, founder of Youthnet, a Kohima-based NGO that works towards empowering the youth. The State library was inaugurated by the Government of Nagaland’s Department of Art and Culture in 1981. “In 2007, the Assam Rifles had invested in a library in the Dimapur Government College but that closed down in 2010,” says Longchar.
Longchar’s library called the Dimapur Public Library is managed by a eight-membered core team — some of whom were the initial respondents to his Facebook post from August 2017. One of them, Susan Lotha, met with him right after she saw the post and in a week, the core team was in place. In the months that followed they scoured Dimapur for a suitable space, called for donations and received considerable support. “But funds were always a problem, and after running around for 8 months, unable to find a space, we just went ahead on our own,” he says. Today, the rent for the library (housed in a two-roomed space) is paid by the core team while books (educational, reference, fiction, childrens’ etc) comes in the form of donations from Nagaland and across India.
“We also have registration fee for adults (Rs 300 per year) and students (Rs 100 per year) while children, elderly and Persons With Disability can visit free of cost,” he says, “This is the only income we generate from the library.” Longchar is also looking at the library as a space to host events — talks, lectures, book launches and readings. “This is all very new to Nagaland — cafes do exist but creative spaces like these do not,” he says.
In the four days since its launch, the library has got about 50 registrations. While the idea has created a ripple of excitement and curiosity in Nagaland, the next challenge lies in sustaining the venture. “I have not been there myself but I really hope enough people contribute to help their initiative,” says Jakhalu, “In Nagaland, there are people who read, but access is what they don’t have.”