We are familiar with the look of a librarian, a senior person, in most cases serious-looking and wearing thick glasses. But we cannot ordinarily imagine a Std VII girl student running her own library! That record goes to Yashoda Shenoy, a 12-year-old girl from Mattancherry of Ernakulam district in Kerala. Generally, libraries are part of schools or colleges and in some places lending libraries are run by townships and village panchayats. If one wants to be a member, a fee is charged. But Yashoda’s library is different: it is situated in the upper floor of her house and no membership fee is charged. As of now, it has some 110 members.
Yashoda’s love for reading books started when she was in Std III. Once, her father had to pay a fine for not returning on time the book he had taken from a library. “If that is so, how can poor children afford to read books?” Yashoda asked herself.
This prompted her to start a library of her own in her house for the village children. Her father, a painter, shifted his paintings to the upper floor of the house to accommodate the racks of books. He also bought some chairs and tables for people to sit and read comfortably.
The library was inaugurated by Dr K. S. Radhakrishnan, former Vice Chancellor of Kalady Shankara University. To begin with, the family had their own books; a Facebook posting by her father, Dinesh Shenoy, brought in a number of gift books. People continue to donate more books and money.
The library, which began with 2000 books, has now more than 3500 books: novels, stories, poems and non-fiction, for both children and adults, in Malayalam, English, Hindi, Sanskrit and Konkani. Books once taken have to be returned in two weeks but can be taken again. No fine is charged if they are not returned on time. For the aged and the sick, books are delivered to their houses. The youngest member of the library is two-and-a-half years old, and she comes every week with her father to borrow books. Yashoda has special provisions for her. She says, “I have bought books for her with thicker pages so that they don’t tear!”
“My library is run quite professionally,” Yashoda proudly states. “I personally manage the library in the evening hours from 4.00 pm to 7.00 pm. My parents and my elder brother, Achchut, look after the library in the morning when I go to school. The library is open from 9.00 am to 7.00 pm. We have a library card for each book with details about the book and space for recording details about the member who borrows it.”
“Yashoda has a great love for books, and she believes that reading should be accessible and free for everyone. We are really proud of our daughter,” says Dinesh.