To read is to have a new vision

Ambika Shaligram
Thursday, 19 September 2019

We chat up Dalbir Kaur Madan, who has set up Bandana Sen Library Award that invites entries from libraries across the country

A library is a place where you find opinions of all hues and shades; it’s a place that can set you on a journey that can be real or fantastical. It might sound an antiquated idea to some, but libraries can be a perfect setting for trying out new concepts. And, for that we need to start at the very beginning — schools. 

School libraries can do so much more to initiate kids into the world of books. But many schools are unable to pay adequate attention to develop and implement innovative practices. The reasons are many, Dalbir Kaur Madan, tells us. Madan, who runs OneUp Library, Bookstudio and Learning Lab in Delhi, has taken up the cause of reinventing school libraries. She first started OneUp in Amritsar, then came to Delhi and has since been a curator of school libraries. 

Madan has also initiated the Bandana Sen Library Award (BSLA). Sen had set up libraries in Pathway Schools across National Capital Region and mentored the librarians who worked with her. The BSLA invites nationwide entries for excellence in best practices in nurturing, learning environment (entries open till September 20). The award will be presented at a special event on November 9.

We connected with Madan to find out about the joys of reading and her work with school libraries.

Reading, facilitating and nurturing reading
Madan calls herself an avid reader, a bibliophile, who is happiest when surrounded by books. “Reading books has changed me as a person, it has a cathartic effect on me, and it’s given me a newer perspective, a vision for life. My school library was a place that gave access to hundreds of books,” says she.

When the time came to do something of her own, Madan’s first thought was to set up a library. “I was very clear; if there was anything I was passionate about, it was reading, facilitating and nurturing reading! What better work than setting up a library? It was my dream to start a library and I am living it,” she quips. 

Challenges before school libraries 
“People, programme and space primarily are the three foremost challenges before any school,” says Madan, adding, “Different schools face different challenges, like a clear, earmarked budget, right kind of people to run and implement their library programme. Many schools, however, have started valuing the true worth of a good library programme.”

The librarian believes that the school libraries today have the potential to not only support the school curriculum but also be classified as collaborative learning zones that centre on critical-reading activities. Ideally, schools should empower librarians to turn libraries into a space for innovation, nurturing critical thinking and creating a dynamic and joyful environment that encourages discovery. 

“To bring about professional development of the librarians, we need to bring educators, publishers, authors and editors on common ground. We need to collaborate together for best resources and books for children. In order to raise readers, constant support of the parents is also imperative. Parents have to set aside half an hour every day to read aloud to children, or encouraging them to read, discuss and celebrate reading,” she believes. 

Policies for school or public libraries 
When asked if we have policies for school libraries or models, Madan points out, “School library policies are defined by the respective school boards like CBSE, ICSE and other school boards. Each board provides schools with the flexibility to envision and create the reading culture, learning and exploratory environment. Public Libraries are guided by State and Central government policies and regulate policies of providing citizens benefit, rights and freedom to access information for pleasure and purposeful needs. One Up works with school libraries and within the broad framework of school boards and school’s mission, helps them to create and curate libraries as playgrounds of 21st century where the learners become responsive to information, researchers and seekers.” 

Mentored by Bandana Sen
Bandana Sen helped Madan in nurturing her first library in Amritsar, and then in Delhi. “She was that flame that inspired women to dream. She was my mentor, who pushed me to extend my boundaries, and understand the true meaning of leading by example. She was fantastic with children — a great listener, possessed an incredible sense of humour and a rare knack of dealing with children of all age groups. She was able to inspire people, children. Bandana was a rare librarian who knew that every child has the ability to be a reader, but needs guidance,” she adds. 
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