A legacy parked in a library

Vasanthan Library, started in memory of Vasanthan who died young, has embarked on a project to carry out audio-recordings of school books

For those familiar with the story behind its establishment, it is hallowed ground, marking the memory of Vasanthan, who was tragically struck down in the prime of his life.

Vasanthan was in the final-year of a master of arts programme at Madras Christian College, when he met with an accident.

The family would not let his memory fade away. In March 2015, a year after his death, they established this library at Sivan Koil Street near Powerhouse in his honour.

“Vasanthan has always been surrounded by books; in Class VI itself, he had read Shiv Khera’s You Can Win. He was exposed to wide range of genres,” recalls Sudha Ulagaoli, Vasanthan’s mother who is a former banker and Tamil news reader.

It was Vasanthan’s dream to establish a public library at his father’s village in interior Tiruchirappali. With the family finding it a challenge to set up a library at their native town, they decided on opening up the space at the house Vasanthan grew up in.

The ground floor at the independent house was converted into a free library-cum-reading room.

“The ground floor had a hall, a car parking area and a kitchen; we converted the hall into a library. The parking lot is where people sit and read, it can accommodate 10 people comfortably,” she says.

In the initial years, much of the collection consisted of books that had been bought by Vasanthan, and also those by his father, M. Ulagaoli. “We had 60 boxes of books, a good number of them were related to Civil Service examination that Vasanthan was preparing for then,” says Sudha, who is in her mid-50s. Books on international human rights, biographies and Sidney Sheldon series are part of his collection that are now stacked in the room.

The reading room currently has a collection of 5,000 books, seeking to meet reading needs of various age groups. Pongal and Deepavali are the only days when the place is closed; otherwise anyone can have access to the collection any time between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. It also has a rest room for the benefit of those using the facility for a longer duration.

“This is not a lending library, so we have not had any practical difficulties of keeping track of books,” says Sudha.

In the pre-COVID days, on an average, 20 people would visit the place; and the number would increase during weekends.

“We maintain a wish list where readers can mention a book they are looking for, which we either procure by contacting friends or have well-wishers donating for the purchase of book,” says Sudha, who is a member of Thakkar Baba Vidyalaya.

The centre has been helping children hone their creativity by conducting drawing competitions during Pongal and a drama event every Saturday.

Every Wednesday, a councillor is invited to the place. It has also offered its premises free for NEET classes.

Lockdown project

Since the lockdown began last year, the library has not opened its gates formally but continues to engage with its readers through the digital medium. In October, the library started a YouTube channel by the same name where they record books meant to help deserving high school students.

“We completed recording lessons that students appearing for class X Board examination need and we are in the process of recording lessons for other classes,” she says.

Sudha says they currently have 70 videos, which were made by more than 70 volunteers and they are in the process of uploading more vidoes.

Volunteers needed

They are looking for more volunteers who can help them with this exercise. “I have retired teachers, home-makers and some from Coimbatore and Madurai helping us in recording. We currently need people to help us with editing audios and videos, checkers who can listen and compare the text and explanation to weed any mistakes and those who can read lessons,” says Sudha.

D. Vijayaraghavan, a working professional who volunteers after his office hours, in the evening, by editing videos, says anyone with a knowledge of computers can be a part of this exercise.

A digital experience of Bharathiar songs is also being planned. To volunteer, contact 9884149045/ 9716177728

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