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Resilience of 'The Bookworm' During the Pandemic

The Bookworm is a library and space for creative learning located in Goa.

Libraries, being a physical space of learning, were impacted all around the world by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. One such library, The Bookworm, was closed down for a month and a half; a first since it started 15 years back with the vision to ‘inspire and develop a love for reading as a way of life, nurturing humane engagement in every girl and boy’.


In conversation with Bookworm on how the pandemic effected them:


"Our vision for library work is that in times like the pandemic we needed to be most active but such was the nature of the time. Our programs that involved direct interaction with children and adults through schools, communities, and physical workshops and activities in the library, had to be reimagined and alternate ways of reaching out, thought of. What was reassuring was that we responded quite quickly, reaffirming our vision and attempting to hold strong despite team insecurities, an unknown future in the world and as a Trust, the concern about financial sustainability."


In the backdrop of these trying times, one thing that has surely been reaffirmed is the resilience of human beings– adapting and remaining strong in the face of adversity While it is unnatural for a library to not be visited physically, Bookworm, too, displayed great resilience in keeping reading spirit alive! They were able to do so by starting several initiatives to celebrate reading and remain true to the "Library vision".


Hear from Bookworm about each of their many initiatives:


1. A Library Podcast:

During the lockdown months, Bookworm initiated a bi-lingual podcast series ‘Live from Lockdown Library’’ with eminent educators and professionals working in the field of education to reflect on how the COVID-19 context has impacted reading, libraries and access to stories. We did this as much

for us as for the larger community of educators/ library workers/supporters who draw on Bookworm for purpose and strength.


2. Literacy Playground:

At the very outset of the lockdown and schools abrupt closure, Bookworm did a short intense survey, to understand digital penetration and access in Goa for its communities. The reality on the ground was stark and it prompted the team to think of ways in which we could share the understanding and burden on children's access to learning with more organisations. Rhea D’Souza, our colleague at Bookworm, did a visualisation exercise that attempted to capture the complexity of literacy and access for children particularly at this time.


3. Collated document of Library Ideas during Covid-19: melting pot of ideas

The podcast concluded with a webinar inviting different library educators together to discuss and cross share about their own practices and ideas during this time. These cross sharings were collated into a document and shared out widely to enable seeding of positive ideas amongst larger groups and to knit our sister library programs together.


4. Virtual Storytime:

Through our youtube and social media platforms, we created and acted out stories in the library and shared this out to children, teachers and others, for their reading and listening joy. Since the lockdown we have streamed 46 virtual story times in multiple languages!


5. Home Delivery: The library had very few members coming in post the lockdown, and one way we could overcome this, was by reaching out more. Bookworm began a home delivery offer of dropping and picking up library books and activities , as requested. We also offer to post/ mail physical books to people who cannot venture out and are out of the radius of our home - delivery network.


6. Teacher support: Envisioning teachers as key support systems in a child’s life particularly amidst school lockdown,. Bookworm began webinars with teachers every month, on focussed library and book related topics and to spread book joy.


7. Webinars:

We also began monthly webinars, open to all connected to children, libraries and books , on topics relevant and critical at this time. The webinars were in the form of panel sharings, talks, dialogues and interactive presentations. Some of the topics covered included, ‘The Role of the Physical Book’, ‘Interpretation and meaning making in the digital world’, ‘World Making and Stories’, and ‘Inclusion in

the Library’.


Details about upcoming webinar–

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What role has the library played in this time? Does the library as a subject remain on the school timetable? How was this positioned, at what cost and to what benefit?


8. Newsletter: In a time of much online reading, Bookworm Beyond Borders, aphysical, bilingual library newsletter has been born. The intent is on reaching different parts of the country, with the goal of enabling a strengthening of a larger community of library practitioners and cross sharing of library ideas and practices. The first issue of the newsletter was themed on ‘Stories Matter’ and released in

November, 2020. The 2nd issue is due in February 2021. This is mailed free of cost to any one who shares their postal address.

9. Book Relay:

An annual book relay was held in the months of September and October 2021. The book relay intends to nurture a community of readers by providing a text that must be passed on in the physical form and discussed as a group once finished, This year we chose the theme of Inclusion and identified three

texts which were collections of short stories that was circulated amongst 30+ people working in six teams across different parts of India. The sharing concluded with a Big Talk.


10. Physical needs of children:

We continue to reach out to parents supporting needs of children with book recommendations, activity kits, conversations, some online sharing, postings and reminders about the library being present.


Nothing can truly come in the way of reading!

 
Libraries really are the gates to the future. - Neil Gaiman

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