“In rural areas such as Cheruia or Bansa of Uttar Pradesh, it is hard to find girls who are pursuing their education. Boys who are studying do not continue their education after 10th grade as they join daily labour or start working in their family business. Some who are motivated to continue their education do not have access to the necessary study material,” says Jatin Lalit, a resident of Bansa, Uttar Pradesh, and a 22-year-old law student at Galgotias University, Noida.
So how does one fix a problem like this? Jatin has the answer –
“Libraries are vital to rural communities because it provides access to information and encourages young people to expand their knowledge,”
Which is why, early in August, along with his college senior Praveen Kumar, Jatin took up the task of setting up a community library at Cheruia village, in Baliya district.
The community library at Cheruia was open to the public in the first week of September and is set up at a public resthouse in the village. It has over 600 books – 200 educational books and 400 storybooks primarily written in Hindi. Jatin says the community library aims to address all these issues and provide them a safe space to learn.
Jatin says, “There are 30 students who visit the library regularly, and spend half a day or sometimes more to read. We aim to create a repository with 5000 books which will directly benefit 7000 people living in and around Cheruia.”
How did they set it up?
Since 2016, Jatin has been part of The Community Library Project (TCLP) – A Delhi-based organisation focussed on setting up community libraries in rural areas. By volunteering, he has helped to set up many community libraries in rural areas.
He says that setting up a community library requires two essentials –
- A place to set it up free of cost
- A minimum of 50 people who are interested to visit the library regularly.
“The first criteria is usually easy to fulfill. In Cheruia’s case, Praveen got permission from local authorities who allowed us to use a public resthouse where travellers or homeless people would spend the night. We were given two rooms, a small hall, and the verandah as a sit-out for readers. With help from friends and acquaintances in the village – bookshelves were built and the library was painted. For the second criterion, after surveying seven villages, we noticed 110 students were preparing for government examinations and had no access to study material. The books they needed were available only at shops located in the city. Apart from that, 100 people said they were willing to read every day if they had access to books.”
To conduct the survey the duo gathered 50 volunteers who would go door-to-door to ask a resident’s opinion about opening a community library.
With funds from Praveen’s family and favours from the villagers, the duo set up the library at Cheruia within a few weeks. In the meantime, they created campaigns on social media to collect books.
“Since the requirements were purely educational we created a wishlist on Amazon. People can choose to buy one book or twenty books, it is their choice. But, we decided to only buy what was necessary for the people here. By the end of August, TCLP donated 100 storybooks and kind strangers who supported the initiative purchased books over Amazon to our address, and we have collected 600 books to date,” says Jatin.
Ayush Choudhary, a class 12 student from Cheruia district believes this library will help him score above 90% in his board exam and pursue B.Com in the future.
He says, “I have been visiting there every day since it was opened and I refer to study material. Currently, there are not many books available for 12th standard students but there are NCERT books for lower grades which help me strengthen my foundational concepts. Apart from that, the library is a good space to clear my mind and focus on studies for a few hours every day.”
Impact of a community library
Jatin believes that if rural people continue to study beyond 10th grade, it will change their life and their living conditions.
“After setting up several libraries along with TCLP, I have witnessed how students in rural areas are motivated to study. Some have even gone ahead to crack tough competitive exams. A community library helps students overcome socio-economic disadvantages, and supports everyone who wishes to educate themselves. I aim to help people in rural areas across India set up libraries and increase awareness about the importance of education,” says Jatin.
Within a few weeks after the launch – the Cheruia library has helped 23 students get access to study material and revision books that prepared them for the National Defence Academy exam. Now, Jatin has decided to open one more in Bansa village, his hometown.
“At Bansa, the villagers and local community were enthusiastic about our project and provided us with a plot of land, on which we plan to construct a common hall for the books, and two reading rooms – one for boys and the other for girls. While the foundational work has started, the entire project would cost about Rs. 2,27,000,” says Jatin.
If you would like to donate funds to help Jatin finish the construction of the community library at Bansa here is a crowdfunding link. Or, you can purchase books for the library at Cheruia by referring to the amazon wishlist.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)