You would think that a librarian’s daughter would know better. I always wanted Latika Vihar to have an amazing children’s library and, in the very beginning, it was pretty good. We had lots of books, both Hindi and English. We had lovely reading corners, big round tables and brightly colored shelves.

But it’s not enough to simply make a good start. You can’t just put a whole bunch of books on shelves – no matter how colorful – and expect the kids will come in on their own. And return the next day and the day after that.

Libraries are living, breathing organisms. They need food and water and light. They need grooming and dusting. They need attention. They need someone to love them.

Enter Nicola.

British woman in white, smiling, leaning on a red gate

Nicola has a passion for libraries, for children and for sharing her own love for books. She believes books open worlds and that children need every opportunity they can get.

When she offered to bring the Latika Vihar library back to life, we leaped at the chance.

As luck would have it, an unexpected windfall gave us a budget to buy new books. Nicola had a field day ordering through Pratham, Children’s Book Trust and Tulika. She organized a volunteer brigade to catalogue and label the hundreds and hundreds of new titles she acquired. She designed storage furniture which made use of the very limited space we have. And she encouraged the staff to start reading to the children and the children to start reading to themselves.

And so they did.

Little girl reading to herselfThis little girl is a regular. Every day, without fail, she visits the library to see what new books have made it to the shelves.

She sits with the one she has chosen and slowly, slowly, finger under each word, she spells out the story.

She is lost in the world the book creates for her.

But not so lost that she fails to see what else is going on around her.

Moy Moy loves the library too. She visits it whenever she comes to Latika Vihar and this particular evening, Hema was there to share a story with her.

Teacher reads a story to a child in a wheelchair

Nisha watched from the sidelines:

Teacher reads t  child in wheelchair while a second child watches from the side

But as the story pulled her in, she edged closer:

Teacher continues to read, child on sidelines moves in closer

Until finally, she just had to get in there herself:

Child sits with girl in wheelchair and they read a story together

Moy Moy enjoyed the book when Hema was reading it to her – no doubt. But having a friend to share the magic of a story with was something else entirely.

Libraries have a way of doing that. Libraries are astonishing. Libraries contain stories and stories take us out of ourselves and on to magic carpets. Stories help us find our imaginations and give us wings to fly.

Thanks to Nicola for making it all happen.

Showing 2 comments
  • Charu

    I absolutely agree with you Jo… Libraries open a new world, not only for kids but to all of us….how I wish there were good central libraries in all towns with a cute ‘kids section’!I really miss the environment with that ‘peculiar’ smell of books…(sigh!!)

  • Shaila Maria Faleiro

    How fantastic for the kids in Doon to have such a lovely, affordable library. Do you also do events there Jo? Those can be so much fun!

Leave a Comment