Road Scholars: Who is Ngurang Meena, Who Set Up a Free “Self-Help Library” in Arunachal Pradesh?

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Road Scholars: Who is Ngurang Meena, Who Set Up a Free “Self-Help Library” in Arunachal Pradesh?

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

There are few activities as emotionally satisfying as picking up a great book and reading it cover-to-cover. In Arunachal Pradesh, a state with a literacy rate of  65.4 per cent as per the 2011 Census, a 30-year-old woman is bringing the joy of reading to those who may not otherwise have had the chance to pick up books. Ngurang Meena, who also heads an NGO, has brought the concept of Little Free Libraries (LFL) to Arunachal Pradesh after first spotting the concept in Mizoram. Meena’s “Self-Help Library” is a project that aims to provide access to books to those who are unable to develop a reading habit.

Meena’s goal is to get as many youngsters reading as she can. In the small town of Nirjuli, with a population of less than 15,000, Meena noticed that liquor stores far outnumbered bookstores in her hometown. Not wanting the next generation to fall into the trap of liquor addiction, Meena conceived of the Self-Help Library as a more welcome and beneficial distraction for the local youths as compared to drinking.

In order to get her library up and running, Meena invested ₹20,000, spending ₹10,000 on a fresh batch of books, and ₹10,000 to set up her wooden shelves. She currently has a collection of approximately 80 books, and is actively looking for people to donate used books to grow the library even further.

The main objective of the free library is helping unlock the potential of young students. To this end, Meena has left no stone unturned, even offering chocolates as a treat for any child that comes and spends time at the library. In a first-person article about her reasons for opening the library, Meena quotes former US President Barack Obama, “Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible.”

Meena ends with a request for those passing through Nirjuli to stop by her library and donate a few more books.

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