In and Out of the Library System

Originally posted in Bookworm’s website:

http://www.bookwormgoa.in/2017/04/30/in-and-out-of-the-library-system/

I have been on the margins of the Government system for all of my life – both personal and professional until the last decade. It is a comfortable, easy place to stand and watch and intersect when and if necessary, driven always by my own needs.

My Professional intersections have begun to grow more robust as I learnt more in my educational endeavours about the role, the magnitude, the enormous responsibility the state has  in the  sector of education, amongst all other. My gaze of the state has been changing, is becoming more balanced and I find I am driving harder to engage in spaces that offer me the personal – professional mix of understanding and learning.

This seems kind of muddled, given that I have been a part of Civil Society for over twenty years now, and am driven deeply by a need to contribute to society beyond the personal. However,  I do realise that my engagement even from the space of the ‘third sector’ has been one of non – interference in the state and non – engagement with what emits therefrom. This was in the past. In the present, I am watching, listening and also interacting, having found a space that demands my presence and allows me to learn more effectively.

This year, with support of Parag ( an initiative of the Tata Trust) Bookworm, offers the Library Educator’s Course in English. I have been very closely involved in designing this course for the past five years and feel a sense of ownership on it’s outcomes, it’s possibilities and it’s impact.

In every state in India, the library ails. It appears to be receiving a pump in the arm by a revival and renewal of energy through world wide funds but we will cast this aside for now. To return to the  Library Educator’s Course, it is imagined as one that fills the significant gap of what must and can happen in a children’s library.

And so when we launched our course in Goa, my colleague and friend Amrita Patwardhan and I decided to write to the state departments, seeking their interest in our course. Our intention was mild, we wanted to inform and leave. The response we received from the Directorate of Art and Culture, responsible in Goa for Public Libraries was far from mild. There was a deep interest in our objectives, our purpose and the space for engagement.

Five librarians from the Department of Art and Culture, Government of Goa have been deputed to the Course. A very significant step for LEC and for our relationships of intersection. We are now more formally engaged and it is a celebration for me.

On the 12th of April, 2017 five unsuspecting libraries deputed by their superiors arrived at Bambolim Beach Resort and they may never be the same here onwards.

Vinda, who was deeply questioning her presence and need at a contact course like this, began a count down of how many days to go home. While this did not change what changed was her engagement. She began to listen and be aware that people in library work think and question and do not just do. They appear to feel and become passionate about aspects of theory that she had previously never had reason to think about and she decided , she would engage. She reached for some stitching material displayed on the Library Activity Table and spent late evenings stitching herself into the course.

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In a brief write – up about libraries, Vinda writes, ” Library is like a river . Knowledge and information cause it to flow and this flow makes the river meet the sea. Knowledge and information never ends, like the water cycle, it gets turned into rain that adds to the river and the sea “

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Dattaraj, was quiet and shared that when group sharings were on, he always passed the mike. On the last day of the contact, he shared that he was waiting for the mike to come to him so that he too could talk.  He organised a dumb-charades game for all the participants to bring the collection alive and wrote , “Library is a heart of an institution.”

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Kedar, quiet and gentle lifted us up at an assembly in song. He sings beautifully and he listened with deep care and attention during sessions and wrote that for him, ” A library is like a warehouse – filled with different kinds of books that are carefully arranged for use”.

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Reena, the most confident of the group found her voice when she did a wonderful booktalk on The Girl Who Hated Books, by Manjusha Pawagi. In preparing for her booktalk, Reena interacted with other participants who all supported her preparation and strengthened her confidence.  Reena expressed a library as ” a market for everyday reading and a garden where you can go and pick up the best flowers for yourself”. With metaphors like this, we are filled with hope and confidence in Reena.

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Padmaja, is still finding her place in our group. She is comforted by the presence of her colleagues who are very supportive and nurturing and we look forward to hearing more from Padmaja as the course progresses. Padmaja, clearly loves her work because she writes, ” Library is a beautiful work place, where librarians work happily .”

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My engagement with these librarians will grow stronger because I am also their mentor on the course and as we meet , I learn more about them and their work. I am learning how hard the system is trying to provide a library facility, opportunity and engagement with reading and how only if we work together we can strengthen each other.  I am now in the system, my gaze is inward and I await the learning.

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Library Educators Workshop – Kalike, Karnataka

Perhaps the most fulfilling aspect of my work in Bookworm is that I get to share our experiences in a learning environment with other people.

I was in Yadgir District in North East Karnataka doing a workshop for 50 ‘animators’ who will open library rooms in 50 Government schools and the joy of sharing books, book related activities and story telling pedagogies leaves me exhilarated at the most exhausting times.

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Kalike ( www.kalike.org) is a Tata Trusts initiative that works in education, health, water sanitation and livelihood in the region and a harder working team is perhaps hard to find ! I was honoured to be a part of the library growth opportunity with my friend and co library educator Usha Mukunda.

We worked hard as we are want to do every time we are paired together, but often bring out the best in each other and the participants. From the first day, we sensed a group that was very engaged, open to discussion and questioning ( critical library educator features we watch for) and eager to learn.

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We explored books through a variety of library games and energised ourselves with sharing, book exchanges, scribble mural to decorate our library and understanding about ways of building and strengthening relationships with books.

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I feel my last few days were enriching and spent well and as ever I am grateful for this journey of  crawling with bookworms in different corners of this country.

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Originally posted at Bookworm’s website.

Workshop on “Linking Children, Youth and Children with Public Libraries” during India Public Libraries Conference

As a part of India Public Libraries Conference ( IPLC, 2015) day 3, Tata Trusts initiated and supported Workshop on “Linking Children, Youth and Children with Public Libraries” was organised. The purpose of this workshop is to build a common understanding about children’s sections in Public Libraries by focussed sharing, understanding the key elements of libraries, exposing participants to various kinds of books available and methods of engaging and linking users with various books through activities including a read aloud of a chosen book.

The workshop was conducted by Sujata Noronha, a Literacy and Library consultant with the Tata Trusts and Director of Bookworm, Goa. The workshop was supported by Tata Trusts represented by Amrita Patwardhan and hosted by National Book Trust (NBT), New Delhi in collaboration with DEF.

Participants for the workshop comprised of 7 school librarians from Bettiah in Bihar; District Librarians from Coimbatore, Barabanki, Cuttack, and Lakhipurkeri; State Librarians from Nagaland , Chennai and Haryana. NGO led community library leads and workers from Delhi, Orissa and Chennai; volunteers with both State and Community libraries and students of Library Science from Punjab University also attended the workshop and added immense value to the discussions and participation.

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The interactive workshop was designed to be participatory and ensure dialogue and discussion. The workshop had 39 participants even though the cap was on 25. It began with an introduction session where participants were connected with a web of string and they had to share one word that comes to their mind when they hear the word “library”. A number of key words like information, knowledge explosion, dissemination, issue and return, books, media emerged that set the stage for the raw material of most libraries. Very refreshing aspects like refuge, joy, engagement and learning completed the rich aspects of a library design and established linkage between participants and the aspects of a library.

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After this the participants were divided into groups and they had to list and present the key elements of a Children’s library. The resource persons then collated and categorised these words into broader categories. It was interesting to note that at this point, the focus was the user and so a number of critical features of Children’s library like joyful learning activities, good selection of books, space and furniture, motivated stand emerged.

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Then the participants were asked to work in groups and prioritise elements in the order of importance. This exercise helped to build clear understanding of the elements and how they need to work towards an effective library program keeping the user first.

A walk around the groups, enabled listening to other group’s perspectives and refreshing one’s own.

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Once the ground in a sense was laid for the key elements of a Children’s section, the workshop shifted to the theme of engagement with books. Participants, played some find a book – treasure hunt games where they were given clues about the books and they had to find pre-selected books. This was done as a relay and four participants from each group participated in it. The idea of this activity was to demonstrate one kind of activity that can be done with the books. Each group was encouraged to read the books shared.

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Following this Sujata read aloud a book in an interactive way which engages participants, bring their views and world knowledge into the session and uses focussed comprehension strategies like prediction, foretelling, speculation etc. that are important for reading. Following this the participants played Genre Bingo game to learn about the different varieties/ types of books that make a collection with different genres of books available.

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The session concluded with distributing reading materials, sets of books and participation certificates.

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Library Educators Course

The first batch of the LEC concluded in March 2014. There is a quiet pride is knowing that in multiple corners of Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh educators who are deeply engaged with children’s learning have refreshed their thinking and reflection around books.

The Library Educators Course touched the core of many aspects of library work but I think most significantly it has touched the lives of educators who feel isolated and often forgotten.

In the new age of a highest enrollment in schools from children of diverse literacies, print literacy is the most sought after goal. This is no easy task in a country of rich linguistic and cultural diversity like ours. And so the power and place of the library is of far greater significance and import.

We have imagined libraries as store houses and repositories and sometimes as guardian spaces of learning, and while we have invested in many aspects of learning and material we have been unable to privilege the library and the people therein.

I think the Course is of great significance in how it has imagined the empowerment of educators through the tool of books. How it has valued learning and sharing and growing in understanding and world knowledge through books and stories but most of all I think the Library Educator’s Course has privileged the various people who work every day with children and story and empowered them to feel supported on this journey.

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