Hippocampus Writes a New Chapter for Children’s Libraries

In 1998, Umesh Malhotra, then an employee of Infosys Technologies, did a year-long consulting stint in the United States. He lived in the Bay Area of California with his wife and then-five year old son. The book-loving couple was drawn to the local public library; in particular, they liked the children’s section which, besides being well-stocked with books, had a variety of activities for kids. When the Malhotras returned to India, they searched Bangalore in vain for the equivalent of that cheerful space.

Public libraries in India are not known for their user-friendliness. Book lovers either buy books or visit private lending libraries that function as rental stores for periodicals and paperbacks. Space is costly, and reading rooms are rarely part of the setup. School libraries, where they exist, are a hodgepodge of donated books, the majority of them related to academics. There is a museum-like quality to the best of them: expensive editions of books are on display, but under lock and key.

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