Catering to Bookworms in Bangalore

Zoya Philip in Express Buzz asks the question: Are Bangalore’s Bookworms still reading?

What did one do when there was no world wide web? Libraries. That was the conventional way to get the desired information. City Express takes a look at some of the private and public libraries in town. While both offer the reader the choice of books, what sets them apart? There are dime a dozen private libraries in the city.

While some have been around for decades, others are relatively very new. Some of the new ones include libraries like Just Books.

Speaking about why he started the chain of libraries, the owner Sunder Rajan said, “The idea of starting the library was to ensure that each book finds a reader, and, that each reader finds a book. We have issued over a million paperback books in our three years of existence.” “We do not penalise the reader for late submissions. Instead we have a system where the reader is offered a monthly plan, depending on which he can decide the number of books he’d want per month,” said Rajan. He also feels that if the libraries are easy to access, the footfall will be constant. “We have a few circulation libraries in some apartment and corporate complexes. We have also installed a special system where the reader can check the accessibility of the book. In case the book is available in another branch, we can have it brought to the branch closest to the reader,” he informed. As he could not divulge the exact number of members, he quoted that ‘our numbers run in to a few tens of thousands across the city.’

Another popular library is the British Library. “Before we changed the library premises, we had 10,000 members. However, now the numbers have reduced to 6,000,” said Charu Sapra, manager of the library. Sapra also informed that the type of readers today have changed. “Earlier we had a lot of students coming in for reference information. But now since most of their institutes have the books they need, the count has reduced drastically.

Today only those come who share a passion for reading paperback books,” she informed. Some of the members of the library have been visiting it for over 30 years now. “In the olden days the library had many books pertaining to the field of English literature. Though now everything is available online, I still go there because, there are British books that are not available anywhere else in the city”, said Geetha Nagraj who has been a member for over 30 years. She also mentioned that there are many programmes to promote reading among young people in the library.

Like the British Library, Gupta circulating Library has also been around for over 50 years. “We have one or two members who took the membership in 1952. Their grandchildren visit the library now,” said Jyoti Prakash Gupta, a second generation owner. The library started as a small selling store of groceries, newspapers, magazines and books by his father. He said, “What we see today is just 25 per cent space occupied library with only one lakh books. Seventy five per cent of the library was surrendered to the landlords and he sold around 20,000 books as business took a setback.

We have about 500 odd members now.” However he alleges that all members do not visit the library regularly because of modern electronics. “People don’t have the time to hold a book and read anymore.”