Via Citizen Matters
In this age of e-libraries more than 16 thousand Bangaloreans are using government mobile libraries to access books. Two mobile vans have been bringing books practically to their door step for nearly three decades.At 12 15 pm every Wednesday, a blue bus halts near Padmanabha Nagar BMTC bus stop. It is not a BMTC bus, however, and is one of the only two vehicles in Bangalore that travels around the city to satisfy the reading needs of bibliophiles.These are the government operated libraries on wheels. Within seconds of the blue bus pulling up near the bus stop, men and women board the bus, return books and browse for new ones to borrow.Returns and issues happen quickly as more people come in and within an hour, close to 150 books have been issued. The bus has two counters near the two doors at opposite ends. Two librarians man the two counters. Members enter through one and return their books at one counter and new books are issued at the other end.John Celestine, driver-cum-librarian for the mobile unit for 18 years recounts the history of the mobile libraries in Bangalore. Celestine says that the service started with one bus in 1983 and the second one followed in 1994. The first bus was named after writer Masti Venkatesh Iyengar and currently covers north and western parts of Bangalore while the second one named after former Chief Minister D Devaraj Urs, of which he is a staff of, covers southern and eastern parts of the city.The Devaraj Urs and Masti Iyengar libraries have a membership of 6290 and 10,200 members respectively and is growing at an average of 500 memberships a year. More than three-fourth of the members actively borrow books. On an average, they issue up to 120 books at each stop.The State Government mandates that eighty per cent of the books be in Kannada novels while the rest can be a mix of English, Tamil and Telugu novels.The English collection had the standard Robin Cook, Jeffrey Archer, Sidney Sheldon, Tom Clancy novels and seemed pretty outdated. However, on closer look, this reporter saw that books such as Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series too were stocked. John clarifies, “Such books are donated by members.Anuradha B R, 40, a housewife and a resident of Padmanabhanagar, has been a member of the library for ten years. A regular reader of Kannada novels and occasionally Telugu books, Anuradha says that the nearest government library is in Banashankari BDA complex, which is still some distance from her home. “This is a much more convenient option,” she says. Anuradha prefers the mobile library to other private circulating library because of the extensive collection of Kannada books. “You do not get such collections in private libraries. The affordability is a factor too as other libraries charge a monthly fee,” she says.
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