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THE mini community library set up at Alliance Francaise on Wednesday.—White Star
THE mini community library set up at Alliance Francaise on Wednesday.—White Star

KARACHI: As libraries allow readers to enter into different realms and eras, transporting people from the present day, it is also believed that they must not adhere to a conventional format. Thus libraries are now considered to be transitory entities that expand to take up any space they are provided, be it within four walls or in open areas such as parks.

With this vision in hand, at the Alliance Francaise de Karachi on Wednesday, the Karachi Biennale Trust unveiled a mini community library where students displayed the ingenious idea of a transforming and travelling library.

With the help of second-hand books and materials, all donated, and not a penny spent, the team of young, aspiring individuals worked together and displayed their months of research exploring different libraries in Karachi. Their research yielded that most of the libraries did not cater to the public in some way or the other. Libraries, they found, were far from the grasp and access of book lovers; some located too far while others charging memberships not everyone can afford.

To address this, they decided to prove that the only resources needed to set up a library were books and a willing reader.

CEO of Karachi Biennale 2019 Niilofur Farrukh spoke about how the project empowered young students to run the project themselves. She also spoke about how there was a prevalent culture of buying books instead of borrowing them. “That should not be the case, as if you want the freedom to read and access as many books as you want, that need should not be dependent on you buying books.”

Warda Nisar, coordinator of the project spoke to Dawn about how the collaboration allowed 11 students to step out of their comfort zone and take charge of how to create a library. “The students worked together to set up a small space at the venue dedicated as a library space which can easily to taken to other parts of the city and set up without much hardship. At present the space will be taken to the Orangi Pilot Project.”

The library, she explained, is a response to Madiha Aijaz’s work which was showcased at the Karachi Biennale 2017. This shows that art has the capacity to inspire change, initiate a dialogue and create a reaction and a vision that manifests itself practically.

Faiza Salman of PECHS Girls School was among the students who worked on the project and she shared her experience of researching on different libraries and in turn building the new library. “We are trying to prove that libraries do not need money. People try to make excuses that we can’t make a library in our area as it costs a lot of money and that we need a lot of space. Our research and this mini community library prove otherwise.”

Writer and president of the Alliance Francaise de Karachi Bina Shah recalled her childhood when her only friends were books and thus she spent most of her time reading. “Today I am a writer because I spent so much time in the library reading. Libraries are probably the most democratic institution that you can think of as anybody can come and use it and get information, educate themselves and elevate themselves. And a library doesn’t have to be in four walls; they can even travel to you as is shown by a man in Afghanistan who spends his life taking books to children on a donkey.”

The mini community library will remain at the Alliance Francaise de Karachi till Friday after which it will be moved to the premises of the Orangi Pilot Project.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2018