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10 Dec 2023, Edition - 3071, Sunday

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Gadgets eat into footfall of lending libraries

Umaima Shafiq


Owners of Coimbatore lending libraries hold social media and addiction to gadgets for a dwindling footfall. Yet, they continue to upgrade their collection and have not given up on their patrons.

Private lending libraries in Coimbatore are bemoaning the dwindling number of patrons with social media and virtual entertainment taking over book-reading.

N Shylaja, owner of 10-year-old Just for Books library on Thirugnanasamandar Road tells The Covai Post, “We have nearly 350 members and about 4,000 books in both English and Tamil. We even have members from Tiruppur, Anaikatti and other areas near Coimbatore. However the footfall has reduced in the past five years.”

Explaining the reading preferences of the patrons, she said, “Toddlers’ mothers choose activity books, while children from 10-12 years are addicted to Geronimo Stilton, a naughty mouse character, written by Italian children’s author Elisabetta Dami besides US author Rick Riordan’s books. In fact they will not enter the library if don’t updat this collection.”

She says her advice to read other works for in-depth knowledge falls on deaf ears, adding, teenagers read Harry Potter, fiction, romance, Agatha Christie but adults prefer only romantic thrillers.

“Tamil books are also read only by adults.”

In order to encourage children to read Tamil books, Shylaja has been motivating readers to take at least one Tamil book.

“I advise them to read one page and stop if they don’t like it. I have two school-going children but even they prefer gadgets to books. Gadgets are even used to control crying babies.”
School libraries are more for subject reference than light reading. She said, often schools do not guide the children on what to read or allow librarians like us to motivate them. “That could improve reading habit there and here,” says Shylaja.

Despite these limitations, she updates her collection regularly.

C Shanti, librarian at the 35-year-old Choose and Read Library on Trichy Road has similar views. She tells The Covai Post, “Only 10 per cent of our 4,000 subscribers have been visiting the library in the past five years. Many older adults visit regularly and read Tamil books, while the younger generation prefer Gernonimo Stilton, Rick Riordan and Agatha Christie, but the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series are just collecting dust. They have not been borrowed for years.”

She adds that even updating books was based on reader visits. “Sometimes we would buy celebrity books on some readers’ request but after that nobody would subscribe and the expensive purchase is an additional loss. I blame the social media for reduced readership,” she says.

Her boss, S Noorul Amin agrees. “In the 1980s and 1990s television and gadgets were less, so subscribers visit regularly. Now even they read only newspapers, many say we read on Kindle and other devices. I am sceptical about that, nothing can replace printed books. Also children and youth should understand that many great leaders were scholars, reading will shape mind and character. Some parents do have genuine problems like job, distance and money constraints for not accompanying their children to libraries.”

“However, we keep updating to encourage such readers,” he says.

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