An Effort to make Reading ‘Cool’ Again: The Liberal Book Club of Sikkim

In March 2021, three friends and colleagues from the Sikkim State Central Library, Manan Kendra began their journey in establishing a space and community for lovers of literature and books by introducing the ‘Liberal Book Club’. Ayushri Subba, Library Assistant, Karma Donka Bhutia, Library Assistant and Doma Yangzum Lepcha, Supervisor, opened up a space for book lovers to come together and discuss books, life and beyond.

An Effort to make Reading ‘Cool’ Again: The Liberal Book Club of Sikkim

While the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns that followed it had an adverse impact on multiple sections of the society, a small group of young women from Gangtok, Sikkim began their journey to share their interest in books and reading with the community. In March 2021, three friends and colleagues from the Sikkim State Central Library, Manan Kendra began their journey in establishing a space and community for lovers of literature and books by introducing the ‘Liberal Book Club’. Ayushri Subba, Library Assistant, Karma Donka Bhutia, Library Assistant and Doma Yangzum Lepcha, Supervisor, opened up a space for book lovers to come together and discuss books, life and beyond.

The journey began with the idea sprouting about the need for a space where book lovers could get together and discuss about their ideas and readings. The trio felt the desire to take discussions and sharing of ideas beyond them and their small circle. The initial days attracted mostly existing members of the State Central library and eventually, with the help of social media, the community expanded and grew. The pandemic situation had also opened an avenue to organize discussions on online platforms.

Speaking with Sikkim chronicle founder, Ayushri Subba said, “This is very personal to us, this book club. We just want to create a community where people can come together and be themselves and share their stories. It could be anything from talking about a fictional or non-fictional character who inspired them from the works they have read. We have had research scholars come and share about their works, people from pharmaceutical companies have also been a part of the community. We are all here to gain knowledge and inculcate reading habit.”

The Book Club, inspired by the Human Library concept, started a human e-library journey. The Human Library Organization introduces human beings as books and their life experiences as the content of the book. They organize sessions across India where individuals come and share their tales to a small group of listeners. The Liberal Book Club followed this same idea in introducing this idea to their community in Sikkim, and they plan on having more sessions in the coming future. They plan to create a safe space for individuals to come and share their stories without any sort of judgement; as the very idea of the Human Library Organization is ‘unjudge someone’.

The Book Club is also involved in story-telling activities for children. They have been organizing story-telling sessions in orphanages in Gangtok and wish to expand to schools as well. They also organized a session through the library during the ‘read and grow’ program.DomaYangzum Lepcha, co-founder, who also handles the children’s literature section at the library encourages more children to come forward and pick up comic books, even like Tinkle or Tin Tin, as she believes that is where the reading journey begins from.

The need to inculcate reading habits, especially among the younger generations, and to make reading ‘cool’ again had pushed the trio to come up with the community and organize various activities. Karma Donka Bhutia, co-founder said, “We want to create a community space where all the readers from across Sikkim can come and talk about the books to read and like. We want to reach out to more people and come forward and read.”

The journey to share the love for books, reading and learning has begun, and the Book Club welcomes more literary enthusiasts and anyone looking to start their first book to be a part of the community and the journey.

By  Vaidyanath Nishant. The author is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at vaidyanathnishant7@gmail.com