Every morning from Monday to Saturday, P. Sukumaran fills two bags full of books and walks 12 km with a simple objective: to deliver reading materials at the doorstep to people in parts of Karuvatta and Kumarapuram grama panchayats in Alappuzha.
Mr. Sukumaran joined the Kumarapuram Public Library at Karuvatta South near Haripad, which comes under the Kerala State Library Council, as a librarian in 1979 and soon turned into a ‘walking librarian’ to inculcate in people the value of reading books. His act of distributing books on foot has helped create a whole bunch of readers in the last 41 years.
“I love walking. I used to walk several kilometers as a newsboy during my teenage days. When I took up the job as a librarian, not many were visiting the library or borrowing books. It was when I decided to reach out to readers with reading materials. What makes me happy is that a lot of people including women and children have become avid readers after reading books and others materials given by me,” says Mr. Sukumaran, 61, a resident of Karuvatta.
The sexagenarian who doesn’t know how to ride bicycle visits around 30 houses each day. Every month, he distributes more than 1,000 books on foot every month. Over the years, he has created a good relationship with many of the readers. “Some of them, especially children, give me reviews of books,” says Mr. Sukumaran who himself is a voracious reader.
Mr. Sukumaran, who helps people embrace the joy and benefits of reading, lives on ₹3,100 allowance from the Library Council along with the 30% commission that he receives on book sales. He has a wife and a 12-year-old autistic child to look after. “I may not be earning much, but I am proud to say I make a living as a librarian,” he says.
P. Gopalan, secretary, Kumarapuram Public Library, says the doorstep delivery of books has helped increase the library memberships. “When Sukumaran joined more than four decades ago, the library was in decline. The government had stopped distributing library grants and people were not renewing their memberships. After he started delivering books at the doorstep, things have changed for the better. It also helped nurture reading habits in a large number of people. He has received a couple of prizes including State Library Council Staff Association’s I.V. Das award for his work and contribution all these years,” says Mr. Gopalan.