In Conversation With Mingma Lhamu, the brain behind the Free Library
Books are the gateway to knowledge and wisdom. They are, without a tint of doubt, unique sources of portable magic. A library is a place where a bookaholic drops by to satiate his desire of reading. It caters to the wide interests of the people with its assortment of books on subjects ranging from politics, science, poetry, history to the contemporary fiction.
Mingma Lhamu, an advocate by profession, took an initiative to set up a free library in the pristine lands of Gangtok, Sikkim to quench the thirst of ravenous bookworms. She is a wonderful lady who brought forth the unique concept thereby contributing greatly to the betterment of the society. In a candid talk with BananiVista, she shared her journey. Presenting before you the excerpts from the same:
BV: How did the idea of starting a free library struck you?
Mingma: I had seen a Facebook post by one of my facebook friends who, somewhere in the US, had started the free library at her countryside, this gave me the idea to start it.
BV: What were the challenges you faced in implementing your idea?
Mingma: The major challenge is getting books shared/ donated. The concept of the library includes returning books but it is not being followed. Some people commented that if they are not returning then the concept itself is dissolved but I believe in a place where kids have hardly seen good books (except their academic) or known the concept of the library and the importance of reading, I am happy even if they are just taking books and not returning. As mentioned earlier, the challenge for me is to keep the shelf filled.
BV: Were there any financial setbacks? If yes, how did you get over them?
Mingma: One of the ingredients of the Free library for me is that it should be small so that it does not bring financial need and anyone who wishes to start should be able to just start. Hence, financing was not a setback for me because the concept didn’t demand it. Though making a shelf may cost but in my case, I had some helpers at home.
BV: Are you an avid reader? What sort of books do you love to read?
Mingma: Yes, I read. I like to mix and match my reading list. I read non-fictional a lot and in the gap of reading one to other non-fictional, I add some light classic or fictional works.
BV: Does your professional routine allow you to devote adequate time to the library? How do you manage them both?
Mingma: I stay at Gangtok and the library is in my native village which is like 150 km away, hence my mothers and other people at home help me to maintain the library.
BV: Is there any change you have seen with the establishment of the library?
Mingma: It is very hard to determine the change in this particular perspective. But the fact I see the kids standing by, checking shelf and taking books, I believe is enough encouragement for me to work more on collecting books.
BV: How can books add to the betterment of the society? What are your views on it?
Mingma: Books are one of the vital sources of knowledge. It opens a door for understanding a different perspective of life, schools, and achievements, thought process and so on. Reading books molds your personality, empowers you and enhances your ability to analyze. The village where I have started the library still have first generation school going kids who are on the verge of being literate but they lack access to the absolute knowledge system or good books. The concept of reading habit is almost zero percent. So, I wanted to contribute to it. Citing example of my state: I have seen and heard every now and then the so-called well-educated people complaining to the fact that gross section of people don’t understand their scientific intellectual connotation but I believe until and unless you don’t help them in providing platform to access the beauty of that knowledge they will never understand.
BV: What are your plans for taking this venture further?
Mingma: Well as repeatedly said I want this to be as simple as it is for now “a small free library” though I would surely encourage other people to start it too. The concept has to be kept as simple and easy as possible so that anyone could start it. My future plan includes: To overcome book crises. I am planning to approach few book houses in Gangtok for sharing their stocks and to visit school students and give a talk on it.