Ambernath The town of Ambernath is known for being an industrial hub. A few social organisations and individuals, though, are trying to add another tag to it — Pushtak Nagri or the City of Books. Supported by the Ambernath Municipal Council (AMC), locals are crowdsourcing books and setting up reading centres at strategic points, all for free. Sunil Choudhari, the former president of the AMC, who spearheaded the initiative, said the inspiration came from Bhilar village in Satara district, which the state government turned into pustakanch gaav (village of books) by the Maharashtra government in 2017. “The whole idea was started by the people, for the people and to the people at no cost,” Choudhari said.In April last year, three organisations — Amber Bhari, Granthabhisaran Mandal and Konkan Marathi Sahitya Parishad — collaborated and sent out messages on social media, asking people to donate books for the benefit of the people of Ambernath. So far, they have managed to collect more than 20,000 books in Hindi, Marathi and English. Volunteers — teachers, retired professionals or even college students — sort the books to match with a particular theme (children’s books, science fiction, crime novels and so on) that will be a characteristic of each reading centre. Organisers said they have managed to open 35 such centres across the town and are aiming to push that number to 100. Each reading centre has a display unit, a cabinet with books, seating facilities and CCTV cameras keeping a vigil eye. For a visual boost, students from local art colleges have volunteered to paint the walls of these centres in accordance with their chosen theme. Granthabhisaran Mandal, a library that has been in Ambernath for the past 69 years, has decided to extend its services and expertise for the initiative. “We help with managing books, preparing catalogues and have even taken charge of two reading centres next to our library. We also coordinate with other centres and guide them. Our staffs are well-versed with the needs of Ambernath’s readers,” said Ravindra Harhare, the secretary of Granthabhisaran Mandal.Similarly, other local bodies are also taking charge of reading centres and extending facilities for free. Ananya Seth, a local, was delighted with the initiative, saying it would help her greatly with material for competitive examinations. “I need not purchase reference material. Besides, the reading centres are very comfortable spaces where I can sit and take notes. They are letting us take pictures of important pages on our phones too. It’s a wonderful concept,” she said.Abhilash Nair, a resident of Kansai, said the move was a great alternative for his eight-year-old daughter who is otherwise glued only to digital devices. “I hope this interest in reading does not fade out anytime soon,” he said.