Indian Express has a heart warming story on an NRI librarian who after years of pleading with the Government to establish public libraries in Punjab, to no avail, decided do it on his own. He has set up a mobile library in a bus to cater to children in rural Punjab.
It is a weekly bus, huge by even Punjab standards, with the luxury of squatting on the floor or just browsing through books. Like every week, courtesy the brain wave of an NRI librarian who realised that the state would never set up public libraries, a bus chugs into the village and parks itself besides a shady tree where children line up to enter their library.
Years of cajoling officers, pleading with them to establish public libraries in Punjab never helped. So one morning, with a few lakhs saved from retirement benefits, this retired librarian from the US decided to set up a mobile library. ‘‘Let the village child discover the joy of books,’’ Dr Jaswant Singh says. For most children in rural Punjab, books continue to be a luxury despite the affluence. In Punjab villages, where ostentatious living standards has meant that houses have DVD players, but no books, not many gave Singh a second chance.
The bus which has bookshelves instead of seats, goes from one village to another, stopping by for an hour for the children to borrow books. It arrives again at the same time next week, so that children can return the books and borrow new ones. The schools do not have a library and book collections are rare to find. Collections of Sikhs scriptures is what the printed word means for many. ‘‘And there are imported books as well,’’ says Jeewandeep, who is astonished at UK printed books which have dual language story books in English and Punjabi.
In the nine months that it has run in the three chosen villages of Jurahan, Ranguwal and Fullowal in Ludhiana, it has notched a membership of 300. Membership fee is just Rs 10 for which you get a withdrawal card. Singh spends close to four months a year in Punjab for the project. His friend Prof Amarjeet Singh runs the show in his absence. The bus cost him 22 lakh, while the annual running expense is another four lakh. His aim is grand. There has to be a mobile library in each of the 180 blocks in Punjab, Singh asserts. He is flying back to US this week, but promises to come back with more funds, courtesy his US based foundation. More buses, but more important, with more books