Arunachal. The lockdown caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has a silver lining to it as well given the fact that it has led people to think out of the box. A youth from a small town called Nirujlui in Arunachal Pradesh has set up a ‘Street Library’ with just a rack loaded with books and two wooden benches for the readers by the road.
“It is only 10 days since we set up this Street Library and the response from the readers has been so overwhelming. So far no books have been stolen from the open rack and I am not worried because even if it gets stolen, I will be glad as it will be of some purpose to the thief. What can a person do with a book other than reading,” says the founder of the library and government school teacher Ngurang Meena.
Inspired by a story on Mizoram’s mini wayside library, Meena and her friend Diwang Hoasi, a graduate in English honours, came up with the street library in Arunachal Pradesh.
“Empowering destitute women and widows, adult literacy and fight against child marriage and polygamy has always fascinated me,” says the economic graduate from Bangalore.
“To give wings to our goal in life and to keep alive the memory of our late father, we started Ngurang Learning Institute (NLI) in 2014 along with my younger sister, Ngurang Reena, a PhD scholar from JNU, New Delhi. For the last six years, NLI has helped over 1,000 people to read, write and to live a dignified life with our skill development training programmes.”
“The lockdown, which put a break to the regular programmes, led us to come up with a new concept to continue our service to humanity without hurdle”. Children under ten and working women frequently visit this one-of-a-kind library.
“The teenagers are too embarrassed to read by the roadside. Therefore, we have started lending books to encourage reading at home.”
Functional round the clock, the single-rack street library contains a slew of books of different topics of interest. “We are overwhelmed by the reaction of the readers and encouraged by the appreciation from people all around. We want to extend this street library into every village and town of Arunachal Pradesh, which has more wine shops than bookstores,” says Reena.
Considering the positive effect of this street library on people, many volunteers have come ahead to donate books for the rack. Some have helped with cash to buy more books for the library.
“We hope our humble initiative will encourage other youth leaders in every district to start one in their villages to infuse a taste for reading in the people of Arunachal Pradesh,” says Ngurang Meena.