Sunday, April 19, 2009

A full-fledged venture, not mere a library

From the time I have decided to work on realizing the ‘home-library’ dream, I have not thought of it as merely a library. It is not my intention to only have a collection of books and allow people to read them. I want to bring about a change in the mindset of people, of my locality to start with, and want to promote the library as a catalyst for achieving this change. For me, it is a full-fledged project with a definite mission and vision.

I have come up with mission and vision statements for the venture. This would not be possible without my attending the ILP workshop at ISB, Hyderabad - the 15th ranked B-School of the world (FT ranking-2009). The workshop was the result of a project taken up by four students of ISB along with India Literacy project (ILP), Hyderabad chapter. Out of numerous things we did there, the 4 hour brainstorming session to come up with the mission and vision of ILP was a big learning experience.

So what does a mission and a vision mean for any venture you undertake?
MISSION – it is the reason for your organization’s existence. It clearly communicates your organization’s purpose:
· What your organization does
· For whom it does it
· How the organization differs from others appearing to address similar needs
The idea is that mission statement reflects the organization’s big picture. It should not be too specific because it must remain broad enough that your organization can work with it in different ways as the needs and the climate change.

VISION – It is an interpretation of your mission statement. It paints a picture how we expect the community to look—how we expect it to be better, once the mission has been achieved. The best vision statements for result areas describe outcomes that are five to ten years away, although some look even further out. The vision statement should focus on the desired outcome for the project/goal at its completion date.

I applied the same learning to my concept. I and 3 of my friends viz. Neeraj, Pratap and Zing brainstormed for hours together in a conference room over our mission and vision. Finally we came on the same page, and we were in exact agreement on “what we are and want to achieve”.

The home library project objectives
To create an interest for reading, provide access to resources and help people realize their true potential.

To expand the concept and to target
1. A readership base of 1000
2. Members read at least 5 books a year
3. 5000 resources in library

By June, 2011 through
1. Donations
2. Publicity
3. Associating with established institutions
4. Conducting awareness programs
5. Encouraging like-minded people to adopt the concept

To start with I have considered the interested people residing in my locality-Agia and its surrounding area as the target audience. This has included all classes of people starting from children, adults, students and house wives. By statistics, there are 10 panchayats i.e. 100 revenue villages in this area, where around 27000 people used to reside. In another statistics, there are total 7 government high schools, 17 government lower primary schools and 4 private schools in this area, whose students will get benefited largely by this library. Above all, this library will enable one general common man from a diffident place to think – “How can I contribute something to the society within my limitations?”

Ground rules:
1. Library Timings: Library will be opened for 3 hours each day (excluding Sunday) from 3-30 PM to 6-30 PM

2. Membership: One has to be a member of the library to borrow books. He will be charged with INR 40 to be member. There will be 3 level of membership, which will decided based on many factors:
a. ORDN : Can borrow 1 book at a time
b. ELITE : Can borrow 2 books at a time
c. ROYAL: Can borrow 4 books at a time; will be part of any important activities/events of the library.

3. Librarian: To start with below mentioned persons will carry out the responsibility on honorary basis:
a. Hiran Prova Devi , MA (Assamese), Subject teacher
b. Yet to be identified; will update later

4. Donor: We will be keeping track of all the donations (books/Money) to the library through our automated software. Once donated, donor will not have any authority on the resources. I can think of a few scenarios here:
a. Individual donating books: Any individual donating more than 3 books will be provided with ELITE or ROYAL membership without membership charge. Also, names will be published on blogs/registers.
b. Organization donating books: We will acknowledge it highly and will track all their contributions. The organization can use library name in any of their social cause (Not money related). Also, names will be published on blogs/registers.
c. Anybody donating money: Efforts are on to register it as NGO so that people can gain the income tax benefit for donating to this project. Other benefits will be applicable as previous ones.

NB: I am currently working on writing a constitution/Rule Book for the management of the library keeping the vision and mission in compliance. I will publish it on due time.

1. Place: One separate room of size 21``X 13`` at the front part of our house.

2. Furniture:
a. 1 steel almirah with general sized book capacity of around 3000
b. 1 wooden almirah of general sized book capacity of around 800
c. 1 wooden rack of general sized book capacity of around 600
d. 1 small wooden rack of general sized book capacity of around 300
e. 2 wooden tables of medium size for studying
f. 2 wooden benches
g. 5 wooden+ plastics chairs

3. Others:
a. 1 Personal Computer with AMD 2600-32 bit processor, ASUS motherboard, 256 GB RAM and 60 GB HDD.
b. 4 long register books

4. Software: The library management software is the process. A nice effort to maintain symphony between simplicity (due to hardware restriction) and use of latest technology (After all, we work for MicrosoftJ) is being carried out by Alvaro, my flat-mate. A detailed and dedicated blog on the software will be published later.

Monday, April 6, 2009

One Wish, one Dream and a Realization

---"This Rs. 1000 is retained for buying books. Baba--Are you done with your listing of books? Aaijoni--Look at the news paper and let me know if the book fair is at Judges' Field or Saanmari Field?"
---"Bhagin, this book is prized to Manjit in yesterday's Quiz. On first glance, seems like this is not for a boy of his age, can you please read it and let me know?"
---"Putu, this is really a shame that till now you are not able to bring a basic ABCD book for your child. Aaijoni-Bring one of the two elementary books to my rack and give it to this poor fellow"

Above are a few representation of Deuta (Father in Assamese language) at various moments of his life. Point to note here is all of them orbit around a common theme--Books. Imagine a place, where, there is no existence of the word 'Library', where subsists only one book shop whose key purpose is to keep some story books along with pen and pencils so that People can buy them for gifting brides/grooms, where people simply can't think beyond the text books; in spite of being in such a place, I can proudly proclaim with 100% firmness that I have read all the best books of all Assamese writers (Published till 4 years back). The leading constituent of this smugness is contributed by Deuta and Maa. The way they brought up all three of us, we always compromised on many things 'by default', but never did in case of Books; which was a bit startling for a lower middle class family of a backward place like Agia.

One wish:
Ever since I came out of my native place for study, whenever I have to visit again, I always take 1-2 books for Deuta. Most of the time that book is the one published from my college/institution, may be a newsletter or a magazine. Usually on the evening of the first day of my arrival, my parents and I used to have a round table chat during the evening tea. Among many other things, Deuta was always keen on knowing one fact -"What is the main difference between the people of my present and my past. What is missing in the 'Urpad Jyoti' of Balbala HS School or 'Kuhipath' of JNM, Agia which is present in the 'Cottonian' of Cotton College or 'NewsLetter' of NIT Durgapur".
Many a times, the answer is simple -- "The people of Agia don't know much about the external world. This lack of knowledge has completely narrowed down their exertion, even their thought process". But this is practically impossible for all to go outside and expand awareness. What else can they do?? The way out is--'To read books' .
"I will do something after retirement, may be a small book shop in the Agia market by renting out a room. Or, with the books we have at home, I will get going with some initiative for these people ".... Deuta used to finish the discussion.

One dream:
Cicero once told--'To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul'
First time I came across the concept of 'home-library' at class V while reading the novel 'Saudar Puteke Nao meli Jai' by noted Assamese thinker and literate Mr. Homen Borgohain. In the story, two young boys set up a library in their rural community. From that instant, there has always been an imaginary library in my psyche. But its absence in real life always makes me feel curtailed. I used to run after that dream with even a coin gifted to me for having chocolates by some kind relatives.
Going by Cicero's words, me, my home, my school and even my native place have been living without a soul. There is not a single public library in the entire vicinity. Without going into the discussion why this is so, I always keep on pondering what I can do for my part. The question to sustain a balance between my capability to do things and the possible impacts—has always restrained me. But in the midst of all these uncertainties and internal disputes, my childhood dream still hunt me----A room full of books with all the finest collection of epoch, and people talking about them...gradually realizing their potential in this progression.

A Realization:
I observe whenever more than two software engineers meet, other than criticizing IT industry to be the worst, they always discuss one thing- ‘We have to do something extra, something completely new and innovative’. In most of the cases the discussion results nothing but simply exasperation.
After the decease of Deuta, whenever I used to enter (even in my thought) the ‘optical room’ (the study room positioned on the extreme left corner of our house), all the books lying on the rack seem to echo the incomplete desire of Deuta. I was feeling sort of fidgety; my restless mind kept on reminding me I needed to do something. I began thinking all the three things together-Deuta’s wish, my dream and the software engineer’s immense intend to do ‘something extra’. I came to a sturdy realization: In real life, there should always be a moment when you have to stand up on your feet and declare—“Enough of dreaming, from now on my efforts will be focused to make every dream a reality”.
This was a big realization on my part. I stood up on my feet. I discussed the concept of a library at our home with my Maa, bro and sis. Also, I conversed the whole idea with ILP (India Literacy Project) Hyderabad Chapter (I have been associated with this NGO, and have been a part of their Community library and Pustakam Program) and got advice & feedback. They gave me many contacts and valuable info.

1st October, 2008--- I packed my luggage and started for home with only one intend in my mind—to gather all required resources and to finish the initial plan and set-up. Dreams were still chasing me, but I was feeling more enthusiastic and lively, not restless.