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Libraries to help make Mumbai street smart

Recreation and hobbies have never been for the city’s many homeless. That’s set to change soon. Alternative Realities, an organisation that works exclusively at creating interaction between the various social classes, will now start street libraries.

books Updated: Oct 31, 2011 14:43 IST
Sneha Mahale

Recreation and hobbies have never been for the city’s many homeless. That’s set to change this Tuesday. Alternative Realities, an organisation that works exclusively at creating interaction between the various social classes, will now start street libraries. The libraries, aptly called Homeless Library-Hol!, will commence on Tuesday in Mahim, Bandra and Dadar and will be on three times a week. The idea is to create a creative and fun space to build self-esteem and human dignity among homeless citizens, encouraging them to utilise free time productively.

“The homeless are not motivated enough to visit public libraries, which they have never seen or thought about and that are far from their living places. They also cannot leave their sleeping spots and go to these public libraries for the fear of losing their belongings,” says Abhishek Bharadwaj of Alternative Realities. “Also, these people have been treated as social outcasts for a long time. These libraries would be helpful in building their self-esteem, generating an interest in reading, and finally getting them connected with the visible and accessible library.”

HoL! is primarily for the homeless and will cater to such citizens across all age groups. It will operate on the pavements near their homes. Bharadwaj says, “It will also help their kids connect with the world of books and have fun learning. We also want to encourage women, youth and senior citizens to develop an interests in reading and spend time productively.”

But the library isn't only about those residing on the streets. To bridge the gap between the classes, average Mumbaikars too can pitch in. Bharadwaj says, "I am requesting people to gives spaces where the books can be kept after HoL! is closed in the evening. This place can be a house, a shop, an office, or volunteers can take books back with them and bring it next morning."

Volunteers will also act as librarians. They will be interacting with the homeless citizens in the respective places, maintain necessary records like number of people visited, books borrowed/returned, new books coming to the library and so on.

HoL! will also stock books on homeless, some written by them, the others by NGOs and the media. These will be available to the common man to read and return in a bid to help them understand the people who inhabit the city's streets and get acquainted with their lives.

In the second phase that will begin next month, HoL! will reach out to the homeless citizens at VT, Nariman Point and surrounding areas. The eventual plan is to keep the libraries operational all seven days of the week in every area of the city.

You can help
HoL will stock comics, story books, novels and random magazines in English, Marathi and Hindi. Most of books that have already been donated are in English.

The organisation is now on the lookout for books, novels, comics and story books in Hindi and Marathi. They also need Hindi newspapers and are requesting everybody to donate them after reading it the same day itself. Thus people can easily associate themselves with the cause.

People can also volunteer as librarians and keep records of books borrowed or returned.