WITH so few libraries for the citizens in the developing world, Karachi, Pakistan, for example has a population of close to 16 million and just 42, libraries, it can be well said to be starved of food for the mind.

It is a different matter that not everyone is interested in nourishing the intellect. Boutiques ans shops selling exquisitely designed fabrics and dresses outnumber bookshops. The libraries, though in adequate numbers, have a vacant air.

HENCE, it was a brilliant idea of the organisers of the 60th Children's Literature Festival [CLF], held recently to include a session on 'Popularising Libraries'. It was surely needed.

The organisers claim that nearly 25,000 children/students attended the festival, which was initially  launched nine years ago, with the idea of introducing books to children. And libraries are an integral part of creating a culture for books and reading.

It would be interesting to know if any of the schools that were in attendance considered it worthwhile to introduce some of the ideas that were discussed in the hour-long session.

Many of the ideas that were generated there are doable, provided there is a will to address this issue. It is for schools to explore and implement the suggestions put forward. Thus, redesigning libraries to be reader friendly will encourage the habit of reading for pleasure.

At present, reading a book is widely seen as an activity that is akin to torture.

The panel was unanimous that gone are the days when the library was a sombre and grim place lined with notices with the world ''SILENCE'' inscribed on them.

To demand a change is not something bizarre. I have actually visited libraries in the West that have swings and slides installed near the entrance to entice children when they accompany their mother there.

Inevitably, the little ones ending up exploring the place. If there happens to be a storytelling session in progress on the spot, the child is hooked and will return there again and again.

In other words, the need is to bring the developing world libraries to life

According to British Council representative, his library is providing space for various literary and book related activities, and there is no ban on speech. Visitors can talk and relax.

Another need to make books and libraries easily accessible to the young readers, especially in cities of the developing world, say, Karachi, where mobility poses a challenge to all, The Oxford University Press Pakistan has already launched its mobile libraries.

In places, they even use a rickshaw to reach books to spots where the lanes are narrow for a van. Another way of making books accessible is by making it mandatory for all educational institutions to have a library.

Even schools with small premises that have little room for a library can device ingenious ways to make books available to their students. Closed shelves in the classrooms can be stocked with appropriate books for the students. The class teacher can act as class librarian as well.

The honor and serving of the latest thinking and writings on Students and Education, continues. !WOW! thanks author Zubeida Mustafa.


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