Photo Credit: Unklnown
Author: Rekha Vijayalakshmi
I have not really figured whether I love Eloor or hate to love it.
It is a lending library, and hence by definition cut throat. With the fee for borrowing set at 10% of the price of the book, they sure made a substantial profit, especially from those who returned the books late. But hey, you sign up for that cost when you join. So I was okay with that.
What I found irksome was the completely unwelcoming air of the library. At the entrance and all over the library were big posters that warned patrons against stealing books (to the tone of “your right hand will be cut off”), damaging the books and returning them late. The proprietor was an unsmiling elderly gentleman who looked like he made up those posters himself. Whatever happened to treating the customer with respect!
Nevertheless, I sucked it up, and was a member from 1991 to 2003, moving with them from Ayurveda College, to Statue and to Palayam. Why? Because they had books that no one else had at that time. The British library did not have the American books. The Public library was a mess by then. I couldn’t afford to buy all I read. There was nowhere else to go. And there were many like me. The only problem was that Eloor knew that too – that their readers were without recourse.
They had the latest authors, the Pulitzer winners, the Booker winners, and the Nobel Laureates, as well as translated works that Prof. Krishnan Nair referred to in his weekly “Literary Forecast”. There were books catering to special needs too. We found entire volumes on architecture and interiors, with kitchen layouts and bathroom tiling instructions, when we were building our home. When we had our baby, all versions of Dr. Spock, and other baby books were in hand to support us.
Our all-time favorite was a beautifully illustrated, out of print version of Wind in the Willows that our daughter loved. We read it again and again for her, until Mole’s house cleaning and Ratty’s blue boat were part of family lore. We called it quits only when she insisted that a kitchen ladle is actually an oar.
What will happen to lending libraries, I wonder, in the connected digitized world? Who would go to them? What would be their business model to attract customers?
Eloor, I hope you are thinking out of the library book.