“You are the only one who can make our world a better place to inhabit. So, don’t be afraid to take a stand.”

For Ngurang Meena of Arunachal Pradesh, change came in the form of books, and she yearns to do the same for others through an open and accessible street library.

Thirty-year-old Meena runs an NGO called Ngurang Learning Institute (NLI) since 2014 along with her younger sister. In August 2020, she set up her first free roadside library in Rayo village in Nirjuli during the first wave of the pandemic. And on Monday, she set up the eighth such library in Koloriang, Kurung Kumey district.

Meena was inspired by a street library in Mizoram, something that pushed her to start her initiative.

Her libraries house a range of books from novels, storybooks to textbooks, and some even have a telescope to ignite curiosity in young minds. The open-access libraries are aimed at creating a reading culture in tribal children.

Meena, having the privilege of being educated, knows that access to public libraries can be a task for the people of Arunachal Pradesh. The state has very few public libraries and literacy is picking up at a snail’s pace.

In a piece for TheWire, she wrote: As the former US President Barack Obama in his 2005 speech, Literary and Education in 21st Century Economy, had said, “Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible,” Books teach us and they open a world to us and help form our opinion; they influence our social and political actions.

She spent around Rs 10,000 to purchase the books and spent another Rs 10,000 to make the wooden shelves and tin-roof for the ‘self-help library’.

Also Read | The little libraries of Mizoram: An epitome of Mizo moral values

Though Meena could not be contacted, Diwang James Hosai, Secretary of Ngurang learning Institute told EastMojo that another such library is under construction.

On the response received so far, Hosai said, “We have received immense support from people. In fact, people are requesting us to come to their area and open such libraries.”

Recently, they also started a fundraiser on Ketto to raise Rs 25 lakh. The main motive is to outnumber the wine shops in Arunachal with free bookstalls and libraries to give the required push to young ones towards reading.

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