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Star struck
June 30, 2015
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Written by Jennifer

The Children’s Library Continuing Education Conference (CLCE) 2015 was a star studded event. It brought together, for me, many stars – some who awe and inspire me, some who I’d heard of, some whose work I was acquainted with and some I’d read so much about but never come close to interacting with. There were the well-known stars and then there new ones waiting to be discovered. What was common in all their work and the way they spoke about their work was that it was fired by passion. If there was one thing that I have taken away from the meet it is this – if you are passionate about something, sky is the limit. And it is for this reason that I won’t talk about the proceedings at CLCE 2015 but about the people who held it together and propelled us into new directions of thought and action.

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I want to begin with the star who designed and curated the brilliant CLCE meet with the Bookworm team, Sujata Noronha. She’s one of those people who I’m absolutely grateful to the universe for throwing my way. Sujata weaves magic into everything she does. While she puts together things and people in a seemingly effortless manner, she is a hard and silent worker. She is like the sutradhar but incognito, who always has a new story to tell, in fresh and invigorating ways with new characters, plots and twists and turns. This time through the meet she told us a story about the purpose of librarians and why we need to professionalize their education in radically new ways. The CLCE library educator’s program anchored by Sujata and Usha Mukunda, funded by the Tata Trust is one big step in this direction.

This makes me want to gush about one of the new stars I discovered at the meet – Kavita, a quiet and unassuming librarian from Pragat Shikshan Sanstha’s Nimkar Balbhavan. I hadn’t heard her talk much during the course of discussions the previous day but when she was invited to talk to the group about her work in the school library, we couldn’t get her to stop. Vidhya is another stellar example of a person who is driven by an inner fire and her work with children in the library bears testimony to this. Working within the structured environment of a school gives Kavita certain advantages that librarians working in out-of-school programs probably don’t enjoy, but she doesn’t take her blessings for granted. The range of pre-reading and post-reading activities she had done with her students and the range of books they’d read were an indication of how meticulous and thorough she was in her planning and execution.

Vidhya also reminded us about a very fundamental thing a good librarian should do – she should love books. Every day, Vidhya juggles her time between her administrative and academic roles as a librarian and yet manages to find time to read at least one book every day. The Library educators Course ( LEC) program gave her the confidence to design and conduct activities in a fearless manner. She also feels empowered by the realization that she isn’t just an ordinary librarian anymore, but a library educator. This is the sense of strength and purpose that Sujata and Usha have passed on to the first batch of their students.

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I had read about Usha, the legendary librarian at the Centre for Learning, Bangalore and she was every bit the person I’d imagined her to be. I secretly wished that I had a librarian like that to grow up with. Usha is warm, soft-spoken and inspiring. She puts so much thought into what she says and does while ensuring that she makes the other person feel at home. A quote by Neil Gaiman comes to my mind when I think of Usha and the short time I interacted with her, “ Google can bring you back 1,00,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” I hope this was the first of many interactions I am to have with Usha.

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Dr. Arvind Gupta and author illustrator, Nina Sabnani – they are stars who need no introduction. They regaled us with stories of their life in a very intimate sharing of sorts. Nina Sabnani opened up about her journey as an artist and author in an inimitable style of heart and humour. In taking us through the process of the creation of a storybook, Nina was taking us through her own story of ‘becoming’ an artist and storyteller. I wonder if such a deep sense of sharing and reflection could have been facilitated in any other context. Both Arvind Gupta and Nina Sabnani in some way made me realize that there isn’t a singular moment in which we can decide that I want be this or I want to be that. It is a series of events, fortunate and otherwise, that propel us to become the people we are. However, it is so important to be open to receiving all kinds of experiences for it is these moments which define us and add to our sense of being.

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Each one of the stars I saw at CLCE 2015 shone through with all their brilliance and the most important thing they all inspired in me was passion and an inimitable sense of purpose.

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