Meet the 87-year-old who guards books at Tiruchi public library

87-year-old takes care of Open Public Library of Tiruchi Corporation

It is a hot afternoon as P. Subburaj mans his station at the Open Public Library near Officers Colony at Puthur, opposite Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital.

The lockdown has reduced traffic to the reading spot in recent months, but 87-year-old Mr. Subburaj is happy to be at work as one of the three guards who take care of the public library through the day.

“My shift starts at 6 a.m. and goes on until 6 p.m., when two other staff come in for the night. We keep an eye on these books, and also see that that the premises is kept clean,” Mr. Subburaj told The Hindu.

Inaugurated in December 2018 by Tiruchi Corporation at a cost of ₹20 lakh, the facility includes covered reading areas with concrete benches and a few chairs for visitors. Approximately 500 books on various topics in English and Tamil are available for on-the-spot reading at the library. Visitors are also welcome to exchange their own reading material with those in the library.

Mr. Subburaj and his colleagues are employed by Star Security Force, a private company that is in charge of the library’s daily upkeep.

“The visitor numbers have dropped during the lockdown, but we hope they will improve as the situation eases over the next few months,” said R. Selvaraj, proprietor of Star Security Force. “The city needs more open libraries, as they will encourage the reading habit among children,” he said.

A former mill worker and tea stall owner, Mr. Subburaj, who lives in Periya Milaguparai area, gets a lift to and from work from his relatives every day. He also helps to guide the people queuing up for free breakfast and lunch at the daily camp run by a social service organisation adjoining the library premises.

“Lunchtime can be a bit crowded, and since people are hungry, they tend to get impatient. I tell them to maintain social distance, and also wear their masks so that they can stay healthy,” said Mr. Subburaj.

The job gives this senior worker a chance to interact with people. “One must always be usefully occupied, no matter what one’s age,” he said, flashing a gap-toothed smile.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 12:26:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/lockdown-duty-guarding-the-books/article31973629.ece

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