It was Thomas Kempis, who said, “Everywhere I have sought peace and not found it but in a corner with a book”. His spirit is not dead nor has his tribe decreased. Thousands of book lovers toil on in their given niches, spreading the love of the written word even as the book’s death is foretold in a thousand modern day tales. It was during one such spell of rumours of the death of books that V.G. Ramachandran, Ernakulam Public Library’s senior librarian, began his career as a young man in his late teens.
Mr. Ramachandran retired on Sunday as senior librarian after 39 years of service. His colleagues, members of the library and the book-loving public were there in large numbers to felicitate him.
“The library gave me a whole new life,” said Mr. Ramachandran on Sunday, visibly moved by the way time had passed since he joined the library in August 1980 after passing Class X. Since then he completed his post-graduate studies in library science.
He said he would dedicate his time to reviving libraries in rural areas in Ernakulam district that had great potential for growth. He will focus immediately on the 64 libraries in Kanayannur taluk. His work will certainly prolong, considering that there are over 500 libraries in rural areas in the district.
Between his joining service and retiring, the membership in the Ernakulam Public Library has risen from just around 1,000 to over 15,000. The number of books has risen from about 25,000 to two lakh.
Mr. Ramachandran remembered that the early 1990s witnessed a rapid fall in readership. “Reading is dead,” said most headlines on the wings of the arrival of computers, he recalled. However, the library staff, led by him, took on the challenge and went out with missionary zeal to convert the public into readers of books. “We visited virtually all homes and offices in Ernakulam to convince people to take up reading,” he said. Between 3,000 and 4,000 new members were added during the campaign, he said.
The trend has continued. Around a thousand people visit the Ernakulam Public Library daily and about 500 books are given out each day with the help of new technology that include RFID-enabled book drop and issue facilities.
Weekly screening of world cinema classics and various competitions were additional incentives for the members, he said.