READ's Community Library and Resource Centre
- A ray of hope for rural Manipur -

By:- Nahid Jubair *

The paradigm of community development and people's participation in rural/regional development has been introduced from 1950 onward. However, many development practices have been limited to the trickle down approach. The numerical involvement in community development activities has been in practice due to the poor implementation mechanism of the spirit of the participatory community development approach.

The actual participation requires a participatory decision-making process that enhances the role of local people in the decision and management of community matters of development. Thus, participatory community development has been critically important in the pace of rural community development.

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India is a developing country where the literacy rate is very low. Among the literate people, the women, marginalized and disadvantaged people are only a low percentage. For sustainable rural development, rural community people should be literate so that they can actively participate in community affairs.

In this respect, Rural Education and Development (READ) India has been adopting the spirit of community development throughout its approach. It empowers rural communities using a replicable model for sustainable educational, economic and community development that pairs non-profit community resource libraries with for-profit ventures. READ's approach mostly focuses on the educational development of rural people through community libraries.

The READ approach of community development also includes economic development, which is one pillar of educational development of an area. It has accepted an innovative micro-funding approach to sustain financially each library through viable income generating programs that support the library for its regular operation and future development. Often the income-generating projects have risen considerably more than library operational expenses. Surplus revenue of the library goes to other community development projects.

A community library is more than just a library. The library is defined as a local educational institution, outside the formal educational system in village areas, which is set up and managed by local people to provide various learning opportunities for community development and improvement of people's quality of life.

The concept of a community resource centre is that of a community owned centre for lifelong access to educational materials. While on one hand, it serves as a storehouse of knowledge and information, on the other hand, it works to create a space for the community men and women to collaborate on a range of development initiatives.

Library and information centres are vital and powerful national resources for individuals, organizations and governmental agencies. Community libraries help local people to develop sound reading habits. They provide reading materials to all age groups and people from different interest groups. With easy access to the library, technology and information, local people become literate and develop their skills. This turns villages into viable places to live by creating jobs and access to technology, thus balancing the urban-rural opportunity gap.

The lack of proper transportation facilities (railway, air, etc), special climatic conditions and such other factors are the barriers that are isolating the Manipur from other parts of India. The result definitely affects the overall growth and development of the region.

The role of the library for all round development of the society is unquestionable, and when the name of the North East India came its emphasis is even more. The community library or rural library or by whatever name we call it, that are located in the Manipur serve as the key institution / gateway to look insight into the rural masses.

As such they can be vested with different types of responsibilities from government as well as from different NGO's and like other. But the problem is that about them also a very little information is available.

The use of the term 'rural library', instead of 'community library' or 'community library and resource centre' is always a confusing one, and must need to be abandoned. In justification of the above sentence it can be said that the term 'rural' indicates the places that have a small population size and whose needs are not served by a metropolitan Development Authority.

The overall definition of the term is always attached with places proximity to a central space, community size, and total population, economic and socioeconomic conditions. But in every state there are a great number of libraries that are grouped as 'rural library' which are in reality serving the urban community or localities.

The Directorate of Art and Culture, Government of Manipur is looking after the 13 (thirteen) government public libraries. Besides the 13 Government public libraries there are 120 (one hundred twenty) libraries that are run by beneficiary club / voluntary organization etc and they are getting regular book assistance, furniture and equipment from the government.

Again there are over 95 (ninety five) libraries which are yet to receive regular assistance from the state government, some of them already receive financial assistance from the RRRLF for purchase of books, furniture, equipment and also for construction of library building.

Government public libraries in Manipur

Sl No Name of library No. of libraries
1 State Central Library 1 Nos
2 District Library 9 Nos
3 Branch Library 1 Nos
4 Community 215 Nos
Total 226 Nos

Recently, in Sangaiprou near Imphal READ (RURAL EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT) India and local community people jointly implemented a Tazei Community Library and Resource Centre (TCLRC) for minimizing Urban Rural opportunity gap.

Sangaiprou is a tribal village inhabited by Zeliangrong community and also called as Kabui to Zeliangrong. It lays within the jurisdiction of 19 Patsoi Assembly Constituency, Imphal West-1, Sub-Division Imphal West District Manipur.

And under Lamjaotongba Gram Panchayat, It is about 7(seven) Kms from Imphal and located in between two National High Way NH-53(Imphal Silchar) and NH-150 (Imphal- Aizawl). The word "Sangaiprou" derived from Manipur mythology. It means that the habitation of Sangai the state animal of Manipur.

READ India is helping rural communities by establishing community libraries with a sustainable financial strategy. Both the library and the sustainable income-generating projects are used as a developmental vehicle to undertake various other development initiatives in the community. TCLRC has selected two income-generating projects.

A project site photo under construction

READ libraries create different sustainability projects based on geographic location, resource availability, local interest and demand. Those income-generating projects cover all the expenses of the library's operating budget, and surplus funds go towards future program expansion.

READ does not implement the project itself, but it regularly monitors the activities of the community libraries. The community itself manages the community library and its services. The responsibility of the project implementation solely falls on the local community. READ activities are flexible and participatory which allows leadership to emerge from any member of the community.

Support mechanisms are also made available through coordinating and networking. This model also allows volunteers, who are eager to learn about community development, to gather ample experience about community matters.

To serve the people, it is necessary to go to their doors steps, to provide them service at the levels where they live. When we consider in respect of information or knowledge, Community Library and Resource Centre (CLRC) or Community Development Library (CDL) or Rural Information Resource Centre (RIRC) or Rural Library or by whatever name we call it, doing the same.

But for how long it will continue without people's own initiatives. They also must come forward to take the benefit, to make it self sufficiency through various provisions like READ library model..

Most of the community libraries in the North East India especially in Manipur spontaneously developed as a part of NGO, Societies, and Club etc and after some time they are dying in the same way due to the lack of subsequent management. During present time they are facing major financial crises and the respective state government and RRRLF financial grant are unable to cover even a fraction of the total need of the community libraries. Without full participation / cooperation from the general people the whole system will be vanished.

Community libraries are very essential for the growth and development of the society and through years it is playing a great role. In terms of community development the common purpose sharing organization / institution like Raja Ram Mohan Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF), National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) formed on 7th February 2003, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) established in 1991, Panchayats, Department of Agriculture of respective state governments, Agricultural Universities, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, etc. can think to unite themselves, for the maintenance of this system, to serve the rural population as well as to fulfil their individual need.

* Nahid Jubair, from READ INDIA (Website: , contributes to for the first time. The writer can can be reached at nahid(at)read-india(dot)org
This article was webcasted at on 14th January 2009.

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