Instilling Reading Habits:

the crucial role of a librarian

Reading is not purely a personal interest but a skill acquired over time. One’s reading habit is greatly influenced by one’s society or surroundings. One can tame one’s mind and body for becoming an ardent reader.

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The more I read the more I discover my ignorance. As a reader, I have personally experienced the truthfulness of this unanimous quote. Most of the libraries, particularly the school libraries in the part of the country which I hail from, brandish on their walls and pillars very prominently a number of such quotations promoting reading. However, often these exercises go either unnoticed or are merely taken as a formal decorative exercise of the library. Nonetheless, at the core of all such activities sits the idea that reading is not purely a personal interest but a skill acquired over time. I also feel one’s reading habit is greatly influenced by one’s society or surroundings. One can tame one’s mind and body for becoming an ardent reader. Yes, you have read it correct. One has to tame both – the mind and the body for inculcating the correct reading skill.

What is the role of a librarian?

When we think about taming, it cannot be done in absence of a tamer or in other words a ‘skillful guide.’ In the context of formal schooling, a school librarian can serve the purpose better through supplementary reading activity. In many libraries, I have seen students and teachers sitting for hours fully engrossed in the content. Some librarians have, of course, played great role in creating this reading culture in the campus, but most of the library professionals, I have seen, are very passive about reading activity. They spend most of their time on either maintenance and circulation or performing daily school chores. This needs to be taken care of by the schools that have the responsibility of creating future leaders. The school librarians must be equipped with the ability to hone skills of the students; and for that to happen, the school management needs to be more careful in allocating the responsibilities. They not only need to be disengaged from unproductive jobs but also need to be engaged correctly.

As a librarian, you need to understand that your job is not limited to merely controlling the circulation effectively, but you have a lot more important tasks at your disposal – taming people on how to develop reading skills. Therefore, your first job is to improve your own reading skills. If you are not a good reader, start working towards becoming one, for one who does not read cannot guide others to do so. You should have good taste for all the subjects. You are not supposed to be master of one trade but a jack-of-all-trades and master of a few.

What a librarian should do?

Remember, you are a teacher not because CBSE or any other board has mandated but because your profile demands it. Class control is as important for you as it is for any other teacher; rather it becomes more crucial for you because you need to have pin drop silence in the library for creating good reading atmosphere. This is possible only if you have planned your lessons effectively and judiciously. Your lesson plans are more demanding in that you don’t enjoy the luxury of a written format like other colleagues. It always has to be there in your mind. How you welcome the class during library period, how you open the short welcome discussions, how you seat your readers, how you listen to their queries, how you inform about a new arrival, etc. are all part of your lesson plans. Being a librarian, you need to work upon your own classroom behavior with utmost care and precision.

Who is a good librarian?

A good librarian is not the one who spends most of the time with records, but the one who spends most of the time in the bookshelves helping the readers getting connected to the books. The more time you spend with books the better knowledge of them you have. On the other side, the more you are in touch with the readers, the better understanding you have of their needs. This is why I use the term ‘connect.’ You are the person who knows both of them very well. You just need to connect them with each other.

The most common excuse for not reading is scarcity of time. Whether it is a reader or a librarian most of them say they don’t get much time for reading. Please remember, everybody has the same twenty-four hours and the focus should be on managing your time efficiently. Encourage your readers to work on their reading speed and do it yourself as well. Don’t sit on one page. Just keep flying over them rapidly and understanding will follow in time. Start your reading plan with lighter content like short stories, anecdotes, travelogues and light poetry, etc. Once you pick up speed, you can go for longer stories, novels and more serious content like essays on history and science, etc.

Don’t forget that reviewing a book is as important as reading it. A librarian can add good chunk of information about books without even reading them thoroughly. You just need to initiate a talk while returning it. My personal experience says that most of the time my new readers return a book without reading it. When I initiate a talk, I never discourage them for not reading it. I just appreciate that they at least tried. Next time, they are briefly motivated while picking a book. The beauty of this exercise is the informal positive reinforcement. It does not only add to your personal knowledge but multiplies into the knowledge of a complete society of readers. You are able to share that information received from one reader to several others.

Another common problem with all the beginners is vocabulary. Most people stutter and stammer in reading because of their unawareness of words. Please remember, answers that immediately follow the questions tend to sink into our memory for longer but spoon-feeding must be avoided. If possible, good number of dictionaries should be made readily available to all the readers in the reading room which would have a telling effect. Let them have questions in their minds and let them search the answers. Just keep guiding them. Another important aspect is spending a good portion of the budget as well as your time in reference section.

At the end, just note that your periodical and journals section should be budgeted separately and must get better attention. If you are not a close observer of the happenings around you, you may not be considered well informed by your readers. In turn, it will become really difficult for you to exert positive influence upon your readers. As a concluding remark, I would like to quote Mark Twain “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

How you welcome the class during library period, how you open the short welcome discussions, how you seat your readers, how you listen to their queries, how you inform about a new arrival, etc. are all part of your lesson plans. Being a librarian, you need to work upon your own classroom behavior with utmost care and precision.

Chandra Shekhar Singh, M. A. (English), M. Lis, B. Ed. has 15 + years of experience as a librarian in CBSE Schools. He is currently working at VidyaGyan School, Sitapur, UP.