Experiences with future Library educators : Reflections on second contact

It was with great excitement that I participated in the second contact period of Library Educators Course (LEC) in offered by Bookworm in partnership with Parag Initiative of Tata Trusts.

In the morning, I was met by an empty hall at 11 am, and I was wondering how will the contact period unfold? I was not only excited but also a little nervous and then the Bookworm team came. They worked like a skilled and coordinated team. They arranged bookshelves, kept books, created reading spaces and a series of small activities and then the place started to look vibrant and inviting people to want to read. I could not even imagine that this whole space could be transformed in just one hour! It was this team’s skill and vision on library that could achieve this.

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First day of the contact session started with welcoming participants by making beautiful Rangoli together, to create a warm and creative environment for the contact session.

An important experience from this contact period was that a good discussion relies on so many small but important things like the sequence of sessions, the harmony among hearing, sharing and asking, which actually enable us to learn collectively. Usha’s session on Emily Ford’s paper was amazing, particularly the way she linked the session with books like That Bookwoman, Clara and the Book Wagon, Biblioburro, during the activity to understand “Praxis” in the Library. Jane’s session on illustration and becoming a reader was not only thought provoking but also enabled participant to consolidate their imagination about joy of reading. I realized that reading and library is itself a domain of knowledge. These sessions compel us to think about literature viz-a-viz Children’s library and reading.

The architects of the contact period were very sensitive toward listening capacity which was explored in a session woven around listening games by Alia. These games and exercises were refreshing and fun.

The specialized and technical sessions were beautifully supplemented by social aspect around reading and library. Megha took session on “Thematic teaching in the Library”. For this, she took an example of gender discrimination and enabled the participants to read and discuss on Thejasvi Shivanand’s paper. Through group discussion she showed that the main characters of children’s books are males, but she also emphasized that there are many such books that break this hegemony of male characters or their depictions. She linked the session with children’s books and enabled LEC participants to read and understand gender perspective in select books. It was my first experience to know library and reading through a gender perspective. It was a very interactive and reflective session. I must say that the collection of books of gender themes was carefully curated and supported the session in important ways.

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Though the main focus of session was gender, but for me it was amazing to know how bookmarking not only facilitates the reader but it also motivates readers to be pulled into a new theme. Through group work, importance of making bookmarks with some critical reflection was brought out.

Sujata had explained the vision and background of library at all time with a focus on the effect and experiences of library during the war. The discussion on war and linking the session with children’s books was a great way to enable the participants to understand the role of libraries in a larger socio- political sense. During the past few decades, historians have choosen variety of sources to interpret and reconstruct past, in this session we were able to understand past through selected children’s storybooks. She provided selected children’s story to participants. The selection of reading was impeccable, which was visible during the discussion of session. We felt a unique and untouched page of history that is about “library as a free space – a haven – our hope”.

There was another technical session by Sujata on Library assessment. This session got a new and constructive perspective on library evaluation. The session focused on a lot of practical aspect for smooth functioning of library, which included developing indicators and tools for assessment.

The contact period was a good demonstration of how learning can happen with fun. The session on drama where participants were acting out Sujata and Usha and trying to answer the questions on Libraries in the way they do was wonderful and full of fun.

On a personal note I think there are a lot of things that one can learn from all the sessions.

Along with a variety of books there were a lot of things displayed, particularly the display on “rain” and “handmade books” was really nice and reflective. The idea of “paper drops” was special, where each participant wrote their name on the paper drop and hung it on a display – making the display not just beautiful but interactive.

It’s not just a playful phrase, but in fact, I want to say that visiting Bookworm library, as part of the exposure visit, not only supplemented the learning during the sessions, but it was a complete experience in itself.

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Nitu

Aug 2018

Nitu Singh works with Parag, an initiative of Tata Trusts as Assistant Manager. She is coordinating the Library Educator’s Certificate course.

Library Educators Course Hindi 2017 Glimpses

Book talk by Participant (2)

Book talk by Participant

Book talk by Participant

Book talk by Participant

Display.

Display

Dumb Charadge

Dumb Charade

Group discussion.

Group discussion

Group Discussion

Group Discussion

Group Reading (2)

Group Reading

Group Reading

Group Reading

Library

Library

Library display

Library display

Pitara Visit..

Pitara Visit

Pitara Visit

Pitara Visit

Poetry Evening - Anware Islam reading poem

Poetry Evening – Anware Islam reading poem

Poetry Evening..

Poetry Evening

Read Aloud on Biblioburro

Read Aloud on Biblioburro

Reading Article

Reading Article

Showing book mark made by participants

Showing bookmark made by participants

Shushil Shukla Session on Children literature

Shushil Shukla Session on Children literature

Singing poem in group

Singing poem in group

Gurbachan Ji speech on last day of contact

Gurbachan Ji’s speech on last day of contact

Mentor participants interaction (2)

Mentor participants interaction

Mentor Participants interaction

Mentor Participants interaction

Poetry Evening- Rajesh Joshi reading Poem

Poetry Evening- Rajesh Joshi reading Poem

Poetry Evening

Poetry Evening

Session by Tultul Biswas on Notion of Child

Session by Tultul Biswas on Notion of Child

LEC hindi Group Photo (2)

LEC Hindi group photo

Glimpse

 

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Game & reading time

Playing dumb charadge.

Playing dumb charade

Playing Game..

Playing Game

Playing Game (2)

Playing Game

Playing Game

Playing Game

Reading Time 2

Reading Time

Reading Time

Reading Time

Reflections on LEC Yatras

“Oh! You’re going to Goa?” “You’ll have a grand time there with the sea and the sand and the food,” said everyone a bit enviously when they heard I was off to Goa for a week. It’s true- Goa is a very special place. Its unique history, its natural beauty, the friendliness and open-heartedness of the locals make it so. And for me, it’s even more special because it is the home of Bookworm!

As the plane dipped down to land at Goa, memories of our earlier LEC encounters swooped into my mind. Udaipur was the first. How eager and yet unsure we were. It was all unknown territory. Why did we want to take this on? Who would it be for? What should we cover? When should it happen? How would it work?! There were only questions. But it is ‘a truth universally known’ that working and thinking together makes things happen. And so it did! We were off and running.

The Udaipur course began and the camaraderie at our living quarters was unmatchable. Faculty and participants share rooms, sometimes with bats as well. The baked rooms were a challenge to sleep in at night but the fellowship was paramount. In winter our bathwater steamed over a gas fire at one end of the corridor. But nothing was a problem. There were always ready hands to carry my bath water to my room. At night those who were game gathered on the terrace to sing, laugh and mingle. On the last night, Sujata and I were ceremoniously escorted to the terrace where two rickety but stable chairs had been found for us to sit back on, and enjoy the entertainment.

We discovered that language was no barrier to a group of eager and committed library educators to immerse themselves in the course. Many of them picked up the torch and kept it alight in small communities where they work.

In each space and with each batch it was a course for all seasons. Intolerable heat, welcome rain and cold cold nights.

On to LEC 2 and to Sirohi in Rajasthan. We were ensconced in a luxurious hotel this time but nothing could keep the scorching sun at bay during our sessions. The hall was not too spacious and we were all too close to each other for physical comfort. But never by word or gesture did we hear a complaint. Enthusiasm and total involvement were paramount- from faculty, mentors and participants. This group of library educators was a bit more experienced and articulate perhaps, but the eagerness to learn and share was all too visible. The close bonding between the participants was evident again when Sujata and I went to their floor one night. The corridor was alight with laughter, song and chatter. What fun it seemed. The faculty had their fun too- sneaking out during sessions to have Kulfi at the roadside cart!

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All of them are back at their places of work hopefully carrying a part of what we have shared. But without close mentoring will it get diluted? And how is mentoring to happen across such diverse spaces? These questions remain.

A gentle bump brings me back to the present. We are in Goa and it is time to embark on LEC No. 3 in English A new set of participants and for me – new challenges. I have been a practitioner all my working life, using instinct, observation and a strong bonding with books and children, to guide my actions. Now a strong academic element deepened and directed the course. Would I be able to rise to these new and exciting challenges? The participant group too had impressive backgrounds of research and writing. Then there was Moodle. But that is another story! But as I stood on the first morning in the circle of connection, I felt a deep sense of communion. We are all in this together and there will now be many more strong voices to speak and act on behalf of children and reading. We may be at different levels and stages in our learning but we are all one in this quest. Each of us is flowering in our own little patch but also slowly but surely putting out tendrils to reach out further and further.

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Quiet time for reading. Quiet time on the beach. I felt invigorated and soothed at these times. I think I went through a whole gamut of emotions during this contact session but looking back, I feel each was a tremendous learning for me as my LEC yatras continue.

I am sharing a poem called “Home.” Read library as home!

Home

Give me a home
that isn’t mine,
where I can slip in and out of rooms
without a trace,
never worrying
about the plumbing,
the colour of the curtains,
the cacophony of books by the bedside.
A home that I can wear lightly,
where the rooms aren’t clogged
with yesterday’s conversations,
where the self doesn’t bloat
to fill in the crevices.
A home, like this body,
so alien when I try to belong,
so hospitable
when I decide I’m just visiting.

Arundhathi Subramaniam

Usha Mukunda May 7th 2017.

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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