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Kerala Library Loses 5,000 Books in Fire. Volunteers Refill Shelves with 10,000.

The AKG Memorial Library in Thalookkara village, Kerala lost more than 5000 books in a fire recently. Here’s how volunteers helped drive a social media campaign to refill its shelves.

In the wee hours of the morning on 23rd March, dark smoke clouds gathered over the Thalookkara village in Malappuram, Kerala. The smell of smoke was all-pervasive as bright orange flames licked hungrily at the sky. The town library was on fire.
An unwitting victim in a political tussle, the AKG Memorial Library went up in a burst of flames. More than 5,000 books, several rare manuscripts and numerous musical instruments were lost. The cost of the damages is estimated to be around Rs. 40 lakh.

Yet today, almost a month later, the library has more than 10,000 books to its name – double what it lost in the fire. All thanks to a social media campaign launched by volunteers.

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Image for representation only. Source: Flickr

When news of the fire and the resulting damage went viral on social media, many individuals stepped up, offering the library books from their own collections. The Facebook group ‘Book Collection’ was formed, helping students and other volunteers co-ordinate with individuals wishing to donate books. The idea of ‘Pusthakavandi’ (The Book Vehicle) was born and the volunteers decided to collect books from across the state on their vehicles.

Juilus Mirshad, a volunteer told The Hindu: “We formed volunteer groups in each district to coordinate the collection activities. One vehicle started from Thiruvananthapuram and collected books from the southern districts, while a few others started from Kasaragod.”
The book collection drive is being dubbed the biggest the state has witnessed in recent times. Delhi University, JNU and Hyderabad University have done their bit too, as have individuals from the US, UK and the Middle East. While many used online book stores to deliver new books to the library, others deposited money directly into the library’s bank account.
Funds are also being collected for the reconstruction of the library.

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