Want Kannada books? Find that blue bus

In this age of e-libraries more than 16 thousand Bangaloreans are using government mobile libraries to access books. Two mobile vans have been bringing books practically to their door step for nearly three decades.

At 12 15 pm every Wednesday, a blue bus halts near Padmanabha Nagar BMTC bus stop. It is not a BMTC bus, however, and is one of the only two vehicles in Bangalore that travels around the city to satisfy the reading needs of bibliophiles.

Board announcing the timings and contact details of the mobile library: Pic: Yogaraj S Mudalgi

These are the government operated libraries on wheels. Within seconds of the blue bus pulling up near the bus stop, men and women board the bus, return books and browse for new ones to borrow.

Returns and issues happen quickly as more people come in and within an hour, close to 150 books have been issued. The bus has two counters near the two doors at opposite ends. Two librarians man the two counters. Members enter through one and return their books at one counter and new books are issued at the other end. The mobile library which arrived from a one-hour stop at Hosakerehalli, Banashankari  3rd Stage, it will now proceed to its third and final stop for the day near Monotype, Banashankari   .

John Celestine, driver-cum-librarian for the mobile unit for 18 years recounts the history of the mobile libraries in Bangalore. Celestine says that the service started with one bus in 1983 and the second one followed in 1994. The first bus was named after writer Masti Venkatesh Iyengar and currently covers north and western parts of Bangalore while the second one named after former Chief Minister D Devaraj Urs, of which he is a staff of, covers southern and eastern parts of the city.

Devraj Urs library waiting for the patrons in Padmanabhnagar. Pic: Yogaraj S Mudalgi

The Devaraj Urs Mobile library reports to City Central Library near South End Circle in Jayanagar and Masti Venkatesh Iyenagar Mobile Library reports to the City Central Library in RPC Layout, Vijayanagar. The Devaraj Urs and Masti Iyengar libraries have a membership of 6290 and 10,200 members respectively and is growing at an average of 500 memberships a year. More than three-fourth of the members actively borrow books. On an average, they issue up to 120 books at each stop.

The State Government mandates that eighty per cent of the books be in Kannada novels while the rest can be a mix of English, Tamil and Telugu novels.  Some of the recently added books are 2009 novel Rokku, a Kannada novel by M Janak Bramhavar and Kapila by Sreenivas Shastry, which was published in 2008.  John says that adding a newly released book to the collection of the library is a tedious process and takes several months.

The English collection had the standard Robin Cook, Jeffrey Archer, Sidney Sheldon, Tom Clancy novels and seemed pretty outdated. However, on closer look, this reporter saw that books such as Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series too were stocked. John clarifies, "Such books are donated by members. The Government mandate leaves very less scope to buy English novels which are fairly expensive. The English collection is mostly updated through donations."


A convenient option for these patrons. Pic: Yogaraj S Mudalgi

The travelling libraries stop for an hour or forty five minutes in some cases, in designated areas where there are no government libraries. The fuel costs for running these libraries comes up to Rs 6,000 every week and is paid out of the City Library Allocation Fund. The units stocks close to 5000 books each, most of them novels.

Pushpalatha Rattihalli, Deputy Director of City Central Library near South End Circle says that the South End Central Library is allocated an annual budget of Rs 2 crores  to purchase books and distribute it among the 30 branch libraries in its jurisdiction. The mobile library unit functions as a branch in itself. Books are updated as and when the Book Selection Committee at the Directorate of Libraries issues a new list of books to be purchased which usually happens every fortnight.

The Committee decides the purchase list of books for all public libraries in Karnataka. However, 5% of the budgetary allowance is designated as Deputy Directors’ quota which can be used by the Deputy Director of the zonal library to purchase books based on the requests made by the members of the public libraries.

Setting up of Government libraries has not matched the speed at which the city has expanded. Pushpalatha says that out of the nearly 200 wards that are now in BBMP limits, only about a hundred of them have public libraries. "Mobile libraries try to fill that void in other wards but there is still a dearth of public libraries," she says. Pushpalatha adds that they decide on creating a stop based on the public demand in that area. "Residents of HAL, Old Airport Road requested us to create a stop in their area. Although it was out of the way from our route, we did it because of the huge public demand as close to 500 people had requested for a stop," she says.  The stop became operational since 16th July.

Apart from adding the odd stop, the last revision of routes came a few years ago when stops were added on Saturday too. "Saturday was earlier a day for the units to update their paper work but due to increasing demand, we made it a full working day. The paper work is now done on Wednesday, which has been made a half day," says Pushpalatha.  Adding new buses in not in the hands of the Central Libraries. "New buses have to be approved by Libraries Secretariat that comes under the Ministry of Education. Ideally each of the five zones should have a mobile library unit," she says. The mobile units have till now functioned smoothly and have not been disrupted by any activities such as road repairs.

The mobile units are self-sufficient as membership cards are issued by the mobile units themselves. To become a member, one needs a passport photograph and a copy of address proof. Applications cost Rs 1 and after getting them filled form attested by a gazetted officer, they can be submitted. Membership fee costs just Rs 40 and is valid for a lifetime. The processing of application is completed within minutes and new members are issued three cards instantly. They can borrow three books for up to two weeks. They can be renewed again and late returns are fined twenty five paise per day.

Anuradha B R, 40, a housewife and a resident of Padmanabhanagar, has been a member of the library for ten years. A regular reader of Kannada novels and occasionally Telugu books, Anuradha says that the nearest government library is in Banashankari BDA complex, which is still some distance from her home. "This is a much more convenient option," she says. Anuradha prefers the mobile library to other private circulating library because of the extensive collection of Kannada books. "You do not get such collections in private libraries. The affordability is a factor too as other libraries charge a monthly fee," she says.

While she appreciates the service, she says that she would like to see more varieties in the collection such as magazines and increased frequency in updating the books’ collection. Another member, Geeta Sortur, 45, agrees that the Kannada book collection is good but says that she would like to more of children’s books in the library. A member for five years and a resident of Brigade Komarla apartments in Uttarahalli, she was introduced to the library by another friend and member. "Reading is a good pastime so this library is very convenient," she says.

Masti Venkatesh Iyengar Library

Monday – 11 am- 12 pm – Sadashivanagar  (near swimming pool), 12 15 – 1 15 pm – Sanjay Nagar, (near NGEF layout), 2 30 – 3 30 pm – HMT quarters, Jalahalli, 3 45 – 4 45 pm – Mahalakshmi Layout  (near Anjaneya Temple)
Tuesday – 11-11 45 am – Peenya, Leggeri Bus Stand (near Banyan tree), 12 15- 1 15 pm –  Kengeri Upanagar, 2 30- 3 30 pm – RPC Layout (near Ganesha Temple), 3 45 – 4 45 pm – Moodalapalya (near Jagjivanram Dental College)
Wednesday – 11 am – 12 pm – Yelahanka New Town (near State Bank of India), 12 15 – 1 15 pm – Kendriaya Vihar, Yelahanka, 2 30- 3 30pm – Chandra Layout (near Goodwill apartments), 3 45- 4 45 pm – Prashanth Nagar ( near nagarbhavi)
Thursday – 11 am- 12 pm – Nandi Talkies, West of Chord Road, 12 15 – 1 15 pm – Kurubarahalli  (Kurubarahalli Circle), 2 30 – 3 30 pm – Kamala Nagar (last bus stop) , 3 45 – 4 45 pm – Saraswathi Nagar (near Nagarbhavi Road)
Friday – 11 am- 12 pm – Mathikere (Mathikere Circle) , 12 15 – 1 15 pm – CPRI Quarters, New BEL Road, 2 30 – 3 30 pm – Vidyaranyapura (near Post Office), 3 45 – 4 45 pm – Sanjay Nagar (opp Sanjay Naga police station)
Saturday – 11 am – 12 pm – Chandra Layout 2nd stage (near Sidda Ganga school ), 12 15  – 1 15 pm – Nagarbhavi  2nd stafe NGEF Layout (near Kalavathi Kalyana Mantapa)

Devaraj Urs Library
Monday – 11 am – 12 pm – Girinagar Main Road, 12 15 – 1 15 pm – Avalahalli Bus Stand, 2 45 – 3 15 – HSR Layout (near HSR Bus Stand), 3 30 – 4 30 – HSR Layout (Sector 1)
Tuesday – 11 am – 12 pm – JP Nagar 6th Phase (2A Bus stop), 12 10 – 12 40 pm – JP Nagar 1st Phase (near Oxford School),1 – 1 40 pm – Shreyas Nagar (after Puttenahalli), 2 45- 3 15 pm – Sundaram Shetty Nagar, Bilekahalli (near Aiyappa temple)
Wednesday – 11 am – 12 pm – Banashankari 3rd stage, 12 15 – 1 15 pm – Padmanabhanagar bus stand, 1 30 – 2 30 pm – Monotype (near Hunasemara)
Thursday  – 11 – 11 30 am – Jaibharath Nagar main road, 11 45 – 12 15 pm – AMBR Layout (after Doordarshan station), 12 20 – 1 pm – Kasthuri Nagar, 3 – 30 pm  – Kalyan Nagar (Jalavayu Vihar), 3 40 – 4 30 pm – Banaswadi (near Mantapa)
Friday – 11 – 11 45 am – Koramangla  National Games Village (Krishna block), 12 – 12 30 pm – Koramangla (near Ganesha temple), 12 40 – 1 pm – Adugodi), 1 45 – 2 45 pm –  High Court, 3 45 – 4 15 – Gandhi Bhavan
Saturday – 11 am – 12 pm – CV Raman Nagar 1st Stage, 12 30 – 1 30 pm – CV Raman 2nd Stage, 2 30 – 3 15 pm – NAL quarters main gate, 3 30 – 4 15- HAL Old Airport Road.⊕

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