There are as many libraries as there are communities to imagine them; each library telling a different story of how it came into being. It may not be surprising for a community’s history and memories to be couched in “before the library“ and “after the library” terms. For, libraries, in celebrating curiosity, freedom of thought, and multiple modes of expression, hold the power to transform communities deeply, irrevocably.

Built on the bedrock of books, libraries serve as intellectually stimulating spaces, safe havens—and in more recent times creative hubs—for children and adults alike. The ever-expanding vision of libraries encompasses book discussions, poetry readings, film screenings, drama workshops, and art and craft activities. Library-goers channel their experience of new ways of seeing and listening, thinking and being, to personal and public networks they inhabit outside the library, causing ripples of change across the community. The channels of change reverse when libraries look to communities for ideas and embrace contemporary concerns to rejuvenate and remain relevant.

We bring to you with great joy the second issue of Torchlight, casting the beam on Communities and Libraries and the shades of reciprocity they reflect.

In Axis, we present three forms of a public library that emerge from disparate sensibilities; embodying the past, the present and the future. In a matter of minutes, Deepika Sharma’s An Urdu Library in the Walled City takes you back more than quarter of a century, to a community then burdened by strife; it birthed a library that is its anchor today. Radha Gopalan, in Communities—The Libraries of Life, recounts a fascinating study tour in rural Andhra Pradesh that gave primacy to the “spoken and experiential word” of human libraries over the written word. In her essay Open Sim-Sim: Digital Doors to Community Libraries, Menaka Raman looks at the growing promise of libraries that break down barriers of language and location that isolate children from the universe of storybooks.

Spotlight features the remarkable journey of two libraries; a birth and a rebirth. In a town in Karnataka, Phuntsok Dorjee tenaciously pursued his dream of building a community library; the Shiwatso Library is indeed A First in a Refugee Settlement. In a shaded, by-lane of Mumbai, the MCubed library rises phoenix-like and soars; Vibha Kamat tells us about it in Yours, Mine, and Ours.

Alt-Shift introduces you to some more libraries as well as personal worlds that are steeped in bookish love. Gautham Subramanyam’s All I want is a Room… leads you into an experimental reading space where two artists portray their reimagined libraries. The possibilities that lie within a school library to bring children and adults of a community together to learn from one another, find expression in A Two-way Street, a vivid account by Gajendra Raut. In the very fine Reading across Countries, Time and City Spaces, Elizabeth Lazaro measures the journey of her life in books and libraries. Uma Mahadevan pays a charming tribute to her lifelong companion in Shakespeare and Me. Gayatri Gulvady in Reading a Second-hand Book: A Journey of Serendipity, shows us what lies inside the pages. And to lose yourself in word-images, spend a few moments with Salil Chaturvedi’s A Thousand Wrinkles (Why I Love to Read)

In addition, our regular features, A Library is like…, A(nother) Readerly Problem, and On the Same Page bring fresh perspectives for all library-lovers and our newest offering is the intriguing Story Stacks, inspired by Nina Katchadourian and presented by Neha Yadav.

We hope you will bask in the glow of libraries and bookish love that this issue offers. The theme for the next quarter’s issue is Children and Libraries. Do join this growing community of Torchlighters.

Illustration: Alia Sinha

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