Parineeta by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay(Translated by Malobika Chaudhari)

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After having finished reading Munshi Premchand’s “Nirmala”, I found myself drawn to read literature that were set in India before independence. Yes we have read much in our History books, but the real depiction of the times can be best seen in the literature where writers were bound by that shackles of the society and yet tried to break them down at the same time.

So this time I picked up “Parineeta” written by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Having seen the movie, I was keen to read the book. But at 112 pages it was a fast read. I have heard a lot about the book and was reading the book with lot of expectation. But at the risk of being rebuffed by fans of the author and the book, I have to say I was disappointed. So to all my 21st century women, if you happen to read the book, be warned that it would anger your spirits.

The storyline is nothing impressive, and I am thankful that I happened to watch the movie before the book(a rarity). If it was other way round then I would not have made it to the movie. Though one of the most revered book by Indians , I feel the popularity is a little misplaced. But then seeing that India is still in the grips of a male chauvinistic society, the book had to gain popularity.

Plot: It is the story of a 13-year-old orphan girl, Lalita, who lives under the care and shelter of her maternal uncle. She is deeply infatuated with the neighbor’s son, Shekhar who happens to be many years senior to her, around 24-25 years of age. Such is her adoration for Shekhar that she willingly succumbs to his every whim and fancy, making  herself choice-less.  Even if she desires to go for a movie with her friends , she stays back only to please Shekhar when he objects to her going out. It is a prank turned awry that is the main twist of the plot.Lalita garlands Shekhar on a certain day deemed auspicious, and she is considered betrothed to him. Being a child woman in the 1920s she begins to regard Shekhar as her husband. But Shekhar knows that his father would never accept his marriage to an orphan girl with no dowry, especially when her uncle had converted to Brahmo Samaj from Hinduisim. Here is another reflection of India which has not changed much even now. A girl without dowry is a burden upon her family since she is not considered worthy of marriage.  Lalita ‘s uncle too under pressure of having girls of marriageable age and not having economic means converts to Brahmo Samaj, to escape dowry.

The story progresses with entry of Girin, and the love triangle that ensues. Lalita grows up with the acceptance of being married to Shekhar, though he remains aloof and even proceeds to get married to another. What happens further is to be read, I would not ruin your reading. But the book left some burning thoughts in my heart and mind. Embers that refuse to be quenched.

Lalita was only 13 year old when she got married to Shekhar and which is a  common phenomenon even now in rural India. Child marriage was the norm of pre Independence India and still continues in certain parts. Thus for Lalita it came naturally to take Shekhar as a husband while playing Doll’s marriage. Lalita is not just a child but a young woman of marriageable age. The character is a representation of the ideal woman image that she and young girls were expected to emulate. So, her behavior, mannerisms, beliefs, display just the same.

But the main burning question is the gender dynamics in Parineeta, which is still in place in India even today.

Lalita, is not like a person but a piece of furniture, which is how women are still treated in India. The patriarchal set up is so strong that her uncle, Shekhar and all the other male characters in the novel mouth questions like: Where can she be put? What is to be done with her? Who will take charge of her? Who can she be married to? Which house can she be moved to next? An author of such stature to write such was a big disappointment. Females are treated as a non-entity – with no voice, opinions and choices. Her life is not hers to decide what to do with, it is decided by her father first, and then husband. She does not decide who she wants to be or not be, what she wants to do or not do, and where she wants to go or not go. She has no right over her life.

If you take a moment to look around you would see that this is the ideal form of womanhood which is placed on a pedestal. But this very image results in the killing of more than 50 million women in India – killed at every stage of life. They are looked upon as inanimate objects, depersonalized, usable, movable, and disposable objects like Sarat Chandra’s heroines.

Other questions that dig in my mind are is why girls and women adhere to this ideal woman image like it were a hypnotic conditioning? Why are females expected to be devoid of sense of self and individuality, and submit to the dictates of her male counterpart, her family, and society, serve them all diligently without questioning, and allowing them to do with her life whatever they please.The men believe that the world – including his family and the women are there to serve him and submit to his will. And this in a nutshell is Sarat Chandra’s idea of an ideal male-female relationship .

And the answer is found in what Shekhar said: Religion. In every religion in the world  the husband is put on par with god. Ancient revered scriptures teach women: they must worship their husbands like God and Master, even if he is a brute, is promiscuous, and has no redeemable qualities. He may beat you black and blue but you are expected to take it all without flinching.  So the question is:   Till when will the Indian woman bow down to their husband(human Gods) or would they have to courage to challenge their God?

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Christmas fest: Symphony

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I know this is a tad too late a post for last year’s celebrations. Been engrossed in too many things and though wanted to write about the wonderful event I never managed to. Better late than never.

I celebrated Christmas fest ‘SYMPHONY’ from 19th to 23rd December’2017, along with my teammates.Several activities were planned for all the classes, SEN children and NIOS students. Separate worksheets were arranged catering to individual needs. Special worksheets were arranged for French and Spanish students as well. Students enjoyed their library classes with mazes, word searches, crosswords based on Christmas. Library was decorated with Christmas and winter symbols to ensure this festive feeling. But the showstopper happened to be the cute snowman which was made with plastic glasses( by me). The whole Library was actively engaged to make the library look more colourful and vibrant. All the decorations were made or drawn by us.

Invites were sent out one week before. Personal invites were given to all the heads. Posters were displayed inside and outside the LRC, in front of the lunch hall, MBR to make children aware about the fest.Competitions were organised for each form. Form VI took part in the Christmas card making competition (they used two colours: red & green). Form VII took part in the Christmas story writing and Form VIII enjoyed Christmas cross words. To make this even more memorable we asked everyone to ‘WISH A BOOK’ in which the users can wish a book and they will get the opportunity to be the first borrower of the same book.

Since day one there was lot of excitement around the event. Library decorations were praised by everyone. Children enjoyed several activities. Apart from regular library classes they came to solve puzzles, fun worksheets. Special thanks to Arti Vig ma’am, in collaboration with her we received wonderful Christmas cards made by our children. SEN chidren also came with Rekha Singhal ma’am and enjoyed special surprises planned only for them. Other teachers also visited LRC during the celebration. Our heartiest thanks to Archana Mishra ma’am, Bhulakshmi Malik ma’am, Komal Dhawan ma’am, Brigitte ma’am, Bhawna Ghosh ma’am, Akansha Malik ma’am for bringing their classes for the celebration and support us. Several teachers, administrative staffs, central office staffs also came to be part of the celebration. Visits by our respected heads boosted us to perform even better. We were delighted with the presence of Manika ma’am, Manisha ma’am, Madhur ma’am, Girija B. ma’am, Anjali ma’am, Shoma ma’am, Aashima ma’am, Ravinder Julka Sir, Yamini ma’am and Pooja Thakur ma’am.

All that could have been: Mahesh Bhatt, Suhrita Sengupta

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“All that could have Been” is a 142 page turner that leaves you asking for more.It does not beat round the bush and the tight plot makes it a delightful read. The book is about unrequited love. Yet at the same time it is about love that surpasses all odds and does not follow the injunctions of the world.

The book raises many questions for the discerning reader and forces you to question the norms and dictates that govern our society. He questions through the story that why women alone are tied down by traditions and customs. And the men are free from the shackles that otherwise suffocate the lives of women. It is in this very strain that the story unfolds. The novel questions the restrain society places on emotions and passions. And why passion is a taboo, a word which only creates dirty images and is treated only with sexual connotations. But for a mature person passion withholds in itself several layers of meaning and depends on the people.

Vasudha Prasad is a single mother though married she raises her son single handedly. . She keeps the memory of his father alive for him by writing notes to him and giving gifts in his name. The father in question, Hari Prasad is missing all this while. In the midst of her sheltered life enters Aarav Ruparel, a rich hotelier who has no fixed address. He has lived out of a suitcase and is amongst one of the richest men alive. Fate plays its cards, Vasudha and Aarav’s path cross and the rest that follows is not something they could predict or control.

This is a story of love and sacrifice. Its about all encompassing love that makes existence worthwhile even if lived short. Vasudha’s story tugs strongly at your heart, making you cry between your tears. The connection between Vasudha and Aarav will make you hold your breath and their love will make you feel light. A book that takes you on a ride of emotions, took a piece of me when I finished it. Left me asking for more.

Mahesh Bhatt is truly skilled in narration with never a dull moment. The story grips you from the start since you cannot predict the turn of events. Just when you think you know what will happen in the next page, your thoughts are overthrown by the author in his signature style.

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Custody by Manju Kapur

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This is my first book by the author. And I must say that the book held me captive from the first page. She explores very emotional topics with much fervor.

In today’s society divorce and fight for child custody is a common scenario. Manju Kapur has been described as the great chronicler of the modern Indian family. Thus, her book Custody presents a riveting story of how a loving family falls apart at the seams and all that is left is an emotional and spite-filled battle between the parents for the hearts and souls of their children.
Story: Raman and Shagun have a perfect marriage in the eyes of the society.  He is a market executive at a global drinks company. She is extraordinarily beautiful. But the reality is far from what is shown by the couple. The two are blessed with a son and daughter – life is complete, so to speak. However, things change dramatically when Shagun is introduced to Ashok, Raman’s boss. The loving couple are reduced to spiteful and malicious enemies as they battle for custody of their children. As the children’s lives are thrown upside down, they are forced to negotiate and come to terms with their new circumstances with very little real support from the adults in their lives.Thrown into the puzzle is Ishita – a young woman who has been kicked out of the family she married into because she cannot bear children. Desperate for a husband and child, Ishita will do anything to achieve this. The novel – as it travels through the lives of its characters becomes murkier and also offers a brutal critique of the Indian judicial system that often left me feeling completely hopeless at the forces that come into play and almost whimsically decide the fate of two very innocent children.

What stands out particularly in this novel is Raman’s anguish and anger at the betrayal he experiences at the hands of his worldly wife. Kapur presents him to us with empathy and meticulous attention to detail.Her attention to male characters comes out of her desire to be as balanced as possible in her writing. It is a notable trait of all her work that despite their astute social and political commentary, Kapur avoids making moral judgments about what she is writing about.

Kapur’s writing makes you ponder on certain questions: What does it mean to be a mother? Is a mother a bad mother if she chooses to seek her own happiness? Can a mother be replaced by a mother figure? Is a mother entitled to her children’s love if she is physically separate from them? Though divorce is not uncommon in Asian society today, but in an Indian setting, seems more complicated by the roles of the extended family members- the in-laws with bitter recriminations, the doting grandparents who are denied their weekly feeding sessions, the cousins who seem to be perfectly happy, the lawyer-relative who is caught between legalities and emotional outbursts…..everyone has an opinion. All the adults seem to have forgotten about the child’s inner turmoil; and to me that was exactly what Kapur is trying to convey.

Kapur through her novel opens forth a panorama of the society’s attitudes towards several issues:  infertility is to cast out a wife if she is barren. The fixation with warranting a lady is married and settled, as a yardstick to measure her happiness which filters down to parental compulsion and feeling of low self-esteem. This recurring theme -of what will people say, what will people think is an inherent feature of Asian societies everywhere.

Custody is a novel filled with layers of social and personal commentary that never seeks to judge people’s choices but to illuminate how social values, personal character traits and the legal system can all influence people’s lives in certain ways.

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Lanka’s princess: Kavita Kanè

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Lanka's Princess

Lanka’s princess by Kavita Kanè is about Surpanakha and how individual choices and mistakes they lead to can shape the destinies of those associated with us.

My memory and knowledge of Surpanakha is dependent on the reading of Ramayana while in school , and watching the epic serial on Doordarshan. Even then I was struck by the independent streak in her and thought that the punishment meted out to her was very harsh in comparison to her offence. So when I came across this book my curiosity knew no bounds.

It is an epic task to write a mythological fiction from the point of view of a character who has been maligned and vilified as an ugly monster. All knowledge about her is just that she is Ravan’s sister and when she is disfigured by Lakshman , a war is waged to avenge the act. The essence of the book is the choice Surpanakha makes and the unfolding of the events thereafter. Our choices define which part of our nature we allow to rule our minds. And that is the poignant within each of us. A small anecdote from the Puranas would make it clearer.

When the world was being created, the Devas and Asuras went to Sage Prajapati to understand the meaning of Atman, or the self. The first answer that he gave was a simple one. The Asuras accepted it and left with the confidence that they now had the power to use this knowledge as a weapon. But the Devas, led by Lord Indra were not satisfied with the answer. They kept cross-questioning the sage trying to grasp the complete significance and debating the ideas. This small anecdote from the Puranas defines the essence of an Asura – impatient, hungry for power and impulsive. One can also conclude from here that there is an Asura and a Deva within each of us. There is an Asura which always hungry and never satiated and a Deva which keeps questioning so as not to to be distracted fro the right path. It is our choice of the self that determines the events in our life.

The book opens with Krishna, who upon seeing Kubja, the hunchbacked woman of Mathura, recognises her as a reincarnation of Surpanakha. He reveals to her that he himself is Ram, now born as Krishna and has come to her to rectify the grave misdeed he committed in his previous life – of rejecting her. He begins to narrate Surpanakha’s story from the time she was born as the youngest child of Rishi Vishravas and his second wife Kaikesi. She was born Meenakshi – the one with the fish-shaped eyes. Since her birth she is rejected by her mother as an ugly and useless being. Her life as a kid at her father, Rishi Vishravas’ ashram was desolate, where she is neglected and overshadowed by her brothers. Even as Lanka’s Princess,she is again neglected and side-lined; It is only when she weds and becomes a wife and a mother does she find love and a sense of belonging.

And when all that is lost all that is left behind is simmering angst and bitterness. The later incidents and experiences keep fueling her inner desire for revenge, even at the cost of those few that she loves. She sets into motion the events that finally lead to Lanka’s war and the downfall of her entire race.

Alongside, there is unraveling of events leading to the rise of Ravan as King of Lanka and the ensuing effect it brings on his family, more predominantly Surpanakha’s life. The reader may sympathize with her for being the neglected child, while at the same time despising her for her vengeful tactics. The author portrays her not as a good or bad character, but simply as a misunderstood woman who, in her own eyes, is merely righting the wrong done to her when her one chance at happiness has been taken away.

The timeline is fast and keeps readers on tenterhooks such that you do not lose interest. In true Ramayana style, the author raises underlying questions about right and wrong, good and evil, gender discrimination, and women’s rights. An example of this is the confrontation between Surpanakha and Sita. The very attempt by Surpanakha to tempt Ram was unbeknownst at that time where women were not expected to be sexually active and and open about their own desires. Her boldness is a stark opposite to Sita’s meekness and it comes across vividly in every page where she clearly expresses her desires.

To summarize, Lanka’s Princess may be a mythological retelling of events. However in today’s day and age, when women are still subjected to various forms of discrimination, the author puts the spotlight on a woman’s individuality, her sensuality and sexuality, her choices and her desires, which the society wishes to keep hidden behind curtains.

As one reads the book, one cannot help but ponder whether we happen to identify the Asuras and Danavas that exist among us in the form of molesters, murderers, rapists, thieves, etc. Can we look into the mirror and see ourselves as we truly are, not black or white, but grey also when the demons within us shouts ‘tit-for-tat’ when faced with discord.  What Lanka’s Princess will leave you with is a food for thought. You will spend days thinking whether Ram and Lakshman have been on a pedestal due to worth or the male dominated society list virtues only for womenfolk to follow.

 

 

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Chokher Bali: Rabindranath Tagore

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This book has been under my radar ever since I was a school girl. And I have wanted to read it as it is renowned as one of the masterpieces of Tagore. But before reading I decided to do a background check because it was written some 100 years back at a time when women were relegated to the background as homemakers and mere decorative dolls adorned with jewels to be displayed as an asset. That time widow remarraige was a cardinal sin and widows lived as outcastes.

‘Choker Bali’ was first published as a serial in the periodical Bangladarshan from 1902 to 1903. In 1903, it was published as a book. In its preface, Tagore wrote:

“The literature of the new age seeks not to narrate a sequence of events, but to reveal the secrets of the heart. Such is the narrative mode of Choker Bali.”

The translation I read is by Radha Chakravarty. In the light of the preface I was expecting to read the inner working of the heart. And what I read completely blew my mind. I am not an apt person to be giving a review about such a great author, hence here i am honestly giving only my views about the books.

‘Choker Bali’ literally means ‘a grain of sand in the eye’.  Used as a metaphor for a relentless irritating presence, the title beautifully sums up the story about the bond between the two female protagonists, around whom the whole story is woven. The cover of the book is also  thoughtfully designed, with a subtle suggestion of sensuousness, a thread which runs throughout the story also. Radha Chakravarty with her skillful translation puts the setting and characters into context, and bridges the gap of the century between the writing and the re-telling.

Book: After its release the novel was heralded as the ‘Modern Indian Novel’ as Tagore chose to write about the women characters and their desires. A topic which was left untouched due to fear of society and its lack of sanction to such topics.As such there seems to be no plot when one reads the novel, but a deeper reading reveals otherwise.

Binodini is a convent educated young widow left to fend on her own when her husband dies soon after they are married. As was the custom in British India, she returns to her village and lives there for a couple of months until she accepts the invitation of Rajalakshmi (her mother’s friend) to live with her and her son, Mahendra (who had earlier rejected a marriage proposal with her) in Calcutta. He is newly married to Ashalata (a naive, gentle girl), and seeing the conjugal bliss of the two ignites the repressed sexuality in Binodini, who ponders over how this house, this mother-in-law, this Mahendra, the bedroom could all be hers. Deprived of the love, and jealous of what Ashalata gets from Bihari thakurpo (who she was supposed to marry) and Mahendra (who dearly loves Asha), Binodini is determined to break her family as she attracts Mahendra to herself. However, when she gets to know his true nature that he loves no one else except himself, and would fly away as soon as he senses danger, she seeks the love of Bihari Babu, who himself was denied love when he was supposed to get married to Ashalata.

The story weaves further the relationships of these three and Mahendra’s best friend, Bihari, as they deal with issues like distrust, adultery, lies, and problems between the four main characters.

It is contentious as to who is the main protagonist of the story. Tagore originally wrote the story with the working title, ‘Binodini’, which probably means that he meant the story to revolve around her. However, the fact that he changed the title to ‘Choker Bali’ – a phrase which Binodini chooses to represent the bond between herself and Asha, suggests that both women are the focus of the story, and to also appease the moral guardians of the time.

Binodini is obviously one of the strongest characters. She is well read, proficient in household tasks, is beautiful, as well as a model of perfection. Yet, her being a widow keeps her secluded and away from every temptation. It is foreseeable that a lonely woman who reads as much, and as varied stuff as Binodini would be tempted to put her ruses to work, to test her power over people, to feel the passion she so craves to experience.

Asha is her complete opposite – meek, simple, illiterate, and unable to run a house like Mahendra’s. She has no control over the turn events in her own life – whether it her life with her relatives, or her marriage to Mahendra, or her inability to handle the situation at Mahendra’s house – be it his passion or his mother’s antagonism.

Between the two women, it is Binodini we feel more attracted to. After all, a woman who takes her life into her own hands is to be appreciated and encouraged. Yet, it is Asha, who, towards the end of the book, comes across as the stronger one. She is the one who handles the situation with a courage, which seems to come from nowhere. And yet, when you think of the lives of Indian women, it is not unfathomable. Even the meekest of women gets courage, when she is left with nothing more to lose. The fact that this situation only comes when she loses all she has, speaks more of our society than anything else.

After the reading I wondered if Tagore always meant  for Asha to grow like she did. Or, did she surprise him too, and develop over the period of his writing?

With such strong female characters, the males seemed to be mere props for the story. Yet the story would be incomplete without them ass they are the reasons for the thoughts, temptations, conflicts and clashes. And they are the weakest among all. They neither have the courage to stand up to their principles, nor the grace to retreat from the scene silently. Their very presence only intensifies the situation, sparking more discord and trouble. Between the two male characters, Bihari is the more evolved. Mahendra is the very essence of the Indian male so prevalent even today – spoilt and egotistical.

The book though set in the 1900’s can give any of the contemporary authors a run for their money. At the core of it ,it delves into many aspects of relationships & how a single wrong decision can topple an otherwise peaceful life. There might be temptations enough but are they worth spoiling so many lives? Is jealousy a strong enough emotion to forget all other ties & relationships? The book delves into these many questions & more. It has an innocence, loyal friendship and an unadulterated flavor of love & relationship which is rare to find these days and is not written about in today’s world.

The only disappointment I felt after reading was the ending. After having created such a fierce and independent character Binodini, the end she faces is not apt if one reads from present scenario. But the book being set in the early 1900 had to end in the way it did. But Tagore did face severe criticism for the treatment meted out to Binodini.  In 1940, in a magazine named ‘Kabita’, renowned poet Buddhadeb Basu criticized the just-published novel ‘Chokher Bali’. He wrote, “I can’t believe, this great novel, in the last page, dragged to such a forced and imposed ending. It rendered the total writing lifeless.” Tagore, after reading this criticism, wrote to Buddhadeb accepting his inability to end the epic in a more subtle way, and said “I regret the ending now… you are right. It’s my right punishment to be scolded for such ending.”

But who can stand against the society and expect to be heard!!!!

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Are school librarians valued in India today?

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While looking up on books for professional reading I came upon a wonderful resource-The Indispensable Librarian by Doug Johnson. It is immensely useful and beneficial for taking guidance for managing an effective school library program.

It is while going through the book and having visited the author’s blog that certain questions came to me while taking a regular library lesson. Doug has asked the questions in his blog and I too am just voicing my opinion about the same. In his blog (http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/) he questions: “… it’s only fair to ask if libraries, library programs, and librarians will be around long enough to make such a reading worth your time.” And like him my answer is also a yes. But a weak yes. You may ask why?

I work as a librarian in an Indian school where the position of a school librarian is yet to develop from the status of a bookkeeper. And it’s not just the authority to blame. There are still librarians who are complacent in their place and do not desire a growth for themselves. Information explosion has not made them look up from their seats and the see the various roles that we can now play. The roles that not only enrich us professionally but also give a fulfilment within. Sadly, there aren’t many takers of this and so books that can help develop skills to make an efficient school library program are not treasured yet. Hence the weak yes.

Having worked with schools with different curricula like CBSE, IGCSE and IB, I saw a stark difference in the way the role of a librarian is perceived. Not all CBSE schools give their librarians the scope for development since they are overworked. Being a part of administrative staff, librarians perform duties other than the library profile which takes away time from their work. They are understaffed and thus he/she does not have time to develop a library program or even organise engaging activities. They are given board duties, invigilation work and other such works without a thought that the work of a librarian is specialised and that it cannot be performed by anyone else.  The very essence of a library period is lost when students are sent for substitution to library in the absence of a teacher. CBSE schools are yet to recognise the strengths of a librarian in curriculum and project designing. Ver few school engage a librarian in department meetings when syllabus is discussed. The use of library is restricted to reading and research. What they fail to see is that library can become the hub of the school if given a chance. But for that librarians should be allowed time to do so and not be scattered into different directions as need be.

And yet there are schools and librarian who show a way for the others like G D Goenka school library and Ms. Madhu Bhargava, the librarian who also happens to be the Director of IASL, which has a comprehensive school library program that not only engages the readers but also teaches students about information literacy, plagiarism, intellectual property rights, etc. She has developed lessons to integrate classroom teaching with the library lessons by way of Collaborative planning and teaching, develop curriculum contents by interacting with international communities and also train the teachers to use web tools and integrate in teaching. So, the students and teachers are Digital citizens as well. In the same lines, we have S. L Faisal from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Pattom, a beacon of how library can be developed into a hub. A visit to the blog gives you glimpse into what potential a library holds, if only right opportunity and support is provided.

I call myself a novice in technology integration as I have a long walk ahead. I have just tasted a drop in the ocean. Our names have now changed to Information specialist, Library media specialist, Information manage, etc. Thus, we all need to adapt to changes in technology to keep ourselves updated and well-informed. It is our responsibility to create and mentor effective library programs in our respective schools.

But the impact and influence of the program is our sole responsibility. There is need devote more time on effective promotion and evolving extensive ownership of the library program. We all know that our roles keep evolving just like the physical facilities, our areas of knowledge, our collections will become more heterogenous, and the services by the school library will also be different each year.

Here comes the second question Doug Johnson has asked in his blog: “So a second question then comes up: Will our libraries be so changed from what we now consider libraries will they still continue to be called libraries.”

And I echo the YES, he provided in his blog. It has become a motto for me to better my services as a librarian and yet not be limited in any means. The answer is:

“If, we maintain the core values that will transcend the specifics of library programming.”  In rather very simple words he has summarised the key to a successful library program.

I have often heard remarks that librarians would soon be redundant with the emerging technology. To these I answer, we have Google, but for a person to arrive at the information he/ she is looking they need a librarian to train them to be critical thinkers and search for relevant information. Otherwise there is every chance of drowning in the ocean of information. We are yet to receive the acceptance and recognition for all the behind the scene work.

In India, the position of a school librarian is very side-lined. It is very rarely looked upon with respect. The wealth hidden in the potential of a librarian is yet to be mined in the schools. Little is done besides the regular lending and borrowing. We are taught Ranganathan’s five laws of library science. But very little is taught on the application of the same in a school scenario.

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There is no help or training provided as to how one is to apply the rules in a school set-up. So, I have been on the lookout for the basic core of librarianship and how it stands in a school environment. Doug in his blog has listed the enduring central or “core” values of librarianship as identified by long-time academic librarian and past ALA president Michael Gorman. (Gorman, 2000). These values stand the storm even though the impact of technology can be heavily felt:

  1. Stewardship
  2. Service
  3. Intellectual Freedom
  4. Rationalism
  5. Literacy and learning
  6. Equity of access to recorded knowledge and information
  7. Privacy
  8. Democracy

These core values may or may not summarise everything but they do provide me a starting point to analyse my own core values as a school librarian. Keeping in mind the Five laws of Library science I embrace:

  1. The primary objective of a school library is to help a child to become a thinker and develop his/ her own views about the world. They are not to be taught what to think, rather How to think. And this is achieved when they can have opinions and not be agreeable to all.
  2. Every child is unique and comes from varied cultural, social and economic background. Thus, their individuality is to respected to help them become better library users.
  3. It is of utmost priority to teach children to honour and respect their privacy and that of others as well.
  4. The ability to find, evaluate, organize, synthesize and communicate information is a basic skill for every child. (Doug Johnson)
  5. Reading skills are best developed when a child voluntary reads through personal interest and is not coaxed. Hence, the job of librarian to help a reader find his/ her book.
  6. Every child is must be taught the skills and sensibilities of digital citizenship. (Doug Johnson)
  7. The success of a library is determined by the services provided to the students and how much they benefit from it.
  8. The skills taught and resources provided by the library program are critical to a free society.
  9. Information in all formats should be treated equally and a child’s preference for the same is to be respected.

Striving to achieve this in the Indian schools is like climbing uphill. The lack of support and understanding makes it difficult to explain the roles a librarian can play in a school and enhance the learning and teaching process. Collaboration between teachers and librarians are unheard of. There is so much that we could bring to the classroom if only given a chance to step out of the island we are closed in. We have been branded Teacher- librarian, but how many of us have really given a lesson in a class. And nowadays without understanding the real value of a librarian there are institutions who are employing technology experts and not people with library background. But can these experts answer the questions Doug Johnson has put: Who will fight for information access for all students? Who will fight for intellectual freedom? Who will be concerned about the privacy rights of students and faculty? Who will insist that information literacy is right of every child?”  They may value these but unlike librarians will it be their principal task? A librarian is not just a bookkeeper, given the provision and occasion to display their knowledge and expertise and help make school libraries the heart of every organisation.

Credits:

Gorman, Michael .Our Enduring Values: Librarianship in the 21st Century, Chicago: American Library Association, 2000. Gorman.

Johnson, Doug. The Indispensable Librarian, Linworth Publishing, Incorporated; 2nd Revised edition edition, 2013.

Blog: http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/