Started in 2016, by the organization Hasiru Dala, the Buguri library caters to around 250 children from the nearby slum. Two of its sister libraries are mobile, and another two are located in Mysore and Tumkur, overall the program reaches 600 children across Karnataka.
“We started with four days a week, now seven days a week we have sessions. We’re never closed. This was a demand from the kids” says Lakshmi Karunakaran, who organizes the library initiative. “Much of how the library is run depends on the kids.”
Like Buguri, many initiatives across the country are seeking to make reading more accessible such as Gyan-key which opens libraries in rural schools that are used and run by students and Pratham Books, a non-profit publisher publishing books in regional languages.
The Buguri library also addresses a much deeper problem of drug addiction, violence and child marriage in the communities that surround them “when we started the library, the kids had many behaviour problems” says Chaitra who runs the Buguri library in Mysore “they used to smoke and have many bad habits, this gradually decreased. Now they have space, a reading space, a space to talk openly.”
“Our main aim is to keep our sons away from cigarettes, beedee’s and ganja. If they stay from them and go to the library, then our work is done” says Mansoor Ali, a dry waste management supervisor from the slum, two out of his three children attend the library. Before parents had to walk around 1 kilometre to drop their children to the nearest school, after which they would have to pick them up and organize tuitions or other kinds of after school care, now with the library they don’t have to worry “instead of roaming through the streets in the evening, they are in the library reading and that’s good.”
Despite the challenges, Buguri library has also had another interesting side effect – although the goal was never about reducing dropouts, it seems to have happened anyway. “before my children used to come back from school and do nothing” says Pushpa, a Buguri parent “now my children, especially my son, are very interested in reading, writing and art. When he grows up, he wants to become an engineer.”