I have been on the margins of the Government system for all of my life – both personal and professional until the last decade. It is a comfortable, easy place to stand and watch and intersect when and if necessary, driven always by my own needs.
My Professional intersections have begun to grow more robust as I learnt more in my educational endeavours about the role, the magnitude, the enormous responsibility the state has in the sector of education, amongst all other. My gaze of the state has been changing, is becoming more balanced and I find I am driving harder to engage in spaces that offer me the personal – professional mix of understanding and learning.
This seems kind of muddled, given that I have been a part of Civil Society for over twenty years now, and am driven deeply by a need to contribute to society beyond the personal. However, I do realise that my engagement even from the space of the ‘third sector’ has been one of non – interference in the state and non – engagement with what emits therefrom. This was in the past. In the present, I am watching, listening and also interacting, having found a space that demands my presence and allows me to learn more effectively.
This year, with support of Parag ( an initiative of the Tata Trust) Bookworm, offers the Library Educator’s Course in English. I have been very closely involved in designing this course for the past five years and feel a sense of ownership on it’s outcomes, it’s possibilities and it’s impact.
In every state in India, the library ails. It appears to be receiving a pump in the arm by a revival and renewal of energy through world wide funds but we will cast this aside for now. To return to the Library Educator’s Course, it is imagined as one that fills the significant gap of what must and can happen in a children’s library.
And so when we launched our course in Goa, my colleague and friend Amrita Patwardhan and I decided to write to the state departments, seeking their interest in our course. Our intention was mild, we wanted to inform and leave. The response we received from the Directorate of Art and Culture, responsible in Goa for Public Libraries was far from mild. There was a deep interest in our objectives, our purpose and the space for engagement.
Five librarians from the Department of Art and Culture, Government of Goa have been deputed to the Course. A very significant step for LEC and for our relationships of intersection. We are now more formally engaged and it is a celebration for me.
On the 12th of April, 2017 five unsuspecting libraries deputed by their superiors arrived at Bambolim Beach Resort and they may never be the same here onwards.
Vinda, who was deeply questioning her presence and need at a contact course like this, began a count down of how many days to go home. While this did not change what changed was her engagement. She began to listen and be aware that people in library work think and question and do not just do. They appear to feel and become passionate about aspects of theory that she had previously never had reason to think about and she decided , she would engage. She reached for some stitching material displayed on the Library Activity Table and spent late evenings stitching herself into the course.
In a brief write – up about libraries, Vinda writes, ” Library is like a river . Knowledge and information cause it to flow and this flow makes the river meet the sea. Knowledge and information never ends, like the water cycle, it gets turned into rain that adds to the river and the sea “
Dattaraj, was quiet and shared that when group sharings were on, he always passed the mike. On the last day of the contact, he shared that he was waiting for the mike to come to him so that he too could talk. He organised a dumb-charades game for all the participants to bring the collection alive and wrote , “Library is a heart of an institution.”
Kedar, quiet and gentle lifted us up at an assembly in song. He sings beautifully and he listened with deep care and attention during sessions and wrote that for him, ” A library is like a warehouse – filled with different kinds of books that are carefully arranged for use”.
Reena, the most confident of the group found her voice when she did a wonderful booktalk on The Girl Who Hated Books, by Manjusha Pawagi. In preparing for her booktalk, Reena interacted with other participants who all supported her preparation and strengthened her confidence. Reena expressed a library as ” a market for everyday reading and a garden where you can go and pick up the best flowers for yourself”. With metaphors like this, we are filled with hope and confidence in Reena.
Padmaja, is still finding her place in our group. She is comforted by the presence of her colleagues who are very supportive and nurturing and we look forward to hearing more from Padmaja as the course progresses. Padmaja, clearly loves her work because she writes, ” Library is a beautiful work place, where librarians work happily .”
My engagement with these librarians will grow stronger because I am also their mentor on the course and as we meet , I learn more about them and their work. I am learning how hard the system is trying to provide a library facility, opportunity and engagement with reading and how only if we work together we can strengthen each other. I am now in the system, my gaze is inward and I await the learning.