Researcher Irene Shabnam desperately needed a book on the history of the freedom movement by R C Majumder for her thesis paper during the lockdown. Abhishek Mahinta, a bookworm, wanted to re-read his favourite author Maupassant’s stories even as he worked from home. With the Malda district library having shut its doors, both were left disappointed. But not for long.
Thanks to Tushar Mandal, the enterprising district librarian, they soon had PDF versions of the books sent on their WhatsApp.
Mandal, who joined his post a few days before lockdown started, kept coming to the library and interacted with regular readers. He realized that avid readers would have to take the e-route since the library was to shut down. With the help of a small section of book-lovers, he created a WhatsApp group and started making PDF files of books.
“Initially, I had contacts of only a handful of readers, who took on the responsibility of inducting more people and the group got bigger,” said Mandal.
The district librarian started by uploading e-versions of daily newspapers in the group. Within a week, Mandal started scanning books, converted them into PDF versions and uploaded them in keeping with readers’ requests. “We never supply rare books or those with copyrights,” he clarified.
The initiative that began with 40-odd readers in May now involves more than 150 active members in the group. Of the library’s 4,500 members, more than 300 are regular readers.
Mandal aspires to reach out to them all; even those who are not members are welcome to the group, he says. “If I don’t have the title available in our library, I get them from other libraries. I have been collecting PDF versions from some libraries of Bangladesh as well,” he said.
The Malda district library has a collection of more than 72,000 books, of which a mere 8,000 have been converted into PDF versions. More than a thousand of these have been contributed by members.
District library officer Prabodh Mahato is encouraging Mandal’s initiative. “Our primary aim is to encourage the reading habit. We don’t want anyone to lose interest in reading because he or she doesn’t have access to a library,” he said.
The readers’ response has been positive after they overcame the initial hesitation of reading on a mobile or computer. Adarsha Mishra, a member, is delighted that he now has both books that he wanted to read — ‘Myths’ by Ananda Coomarswamy and ‘Kinnorer Deshe’ by Rahul Sankrityayan. “Mandal took just two days to supply PDF versions. I never expected to get the books so soon,” an elated Mishra said.
Another member, Aditya Mukherjee, said he has been reading books by Nimai Bhattacharya and Sunil Gangopadhyay on PDF. Classics of Tagore and Saratchandra have so far topped the demand list.
Source:Times of India