Managing a School Library

by Sahadev Komaragiri

One day a teacher approached me and complained that one of the boys was reading comics during study hours. It was not just that, while he was pretending to read a text book he was actually reading a comic book that was placed inside a text book. This was too much for the teacher to handle. Another teacher complained that a student was reading comics in the classroom. We all did this when we were young. I wonder what would have happened if the classroom instruction is more interesting than reading a story book!

This article is from the series on Making a Difference. Please read starting a school library before continuing to read this post.

Managing Resistance
The complaints were only a few and I had to question the students. I asked students what happened, one of them said that he was reading the comic during lunch hour and after the bell rang he continued to read until the teacher arrived and that the teacher noticed that he was reading comics. That was it. When I asked the other student why he was reading comic books during study hours, he said he already studied everything that was required for that study hour and hence he was free to read comics! In any case, I had to warn students that if I hear similar complaints again, I would black list them and as a punishment they will not receive story books for one month. There were no more complaints after that.

A couple of teachers told me that I should not get too excited about students rushing to get books from the library. They told me that these students are coming to take books so as to impress me, otherwise they are just some rustic kids who have no interest in reading books. I was offended by the remarks but decided to let it pass.

Some teachers take academic work too far. For them a good student is the one who is studying 24×7. Reading anything else or doing anything else is a waste of time. The students are always reminded that playing sports or reading story books will not buy them food when they grow up. They simply do not see that book reading, sports, literary and cultural activities are all important components of the holistic development of a child. The thinking of parents is no different. So, it is no wonder that many schools do not take book reading too seriously. There is tremendous resistance to libraries development in many government and private schools. I continued the library work as if nothing was going to happen.

Ancillary Opportunities
I used the library project as a way to teach certain important aspects of discipline. The students are taught to enter the library in a line, not to push each other, allow girls to collect books before boys can come in, and maintain the books in a good condition. Whenever a teacher was absent, I used to go to the class and talk to them about the virtues of book reading. I used to narrate short stories and stories from epics. I encouraged them to read as many books as possible. Children obviously love hearing stories. When a teacher is unable to take a class for any reason, the class leader approaches me to check if I can go to their class.

The library project provided an opportunity to teach English language. English language can be learnt from speaking, reading and writing. The class books are mostly academic in nature and they do not teach the language. English grammar classes are usually taught by those who cannot speak good English and for obvious reasons the students do not enjoy these grammar classes. I encouraged students to read books and try to focus on sentence construction. It is easier said than done; most often they are lost in the story and it is only when I ask them to narrate the story in English that they fumble.

As the students were checking out books, the teachers also showed interested and started checking out books. I felt good and encouraged all the teachers to do the same. Our watchman visited our library and asked if he could borrow some books. I was more than happy to give him some books to read.

I wanted to come up with a list of must read books for students of all age groups. This is the list of the books that every student must have read before they leave the school for higher studies. This is a dream project. I have already created a list of books and I would like to fine tune it further. If any of my readers are aware of any such lists, please send it my way, many thanks in advance!

Managing the inventory
Managing a library required us to maintain an inventory of all the books in a nice excel workbook. Books are not checked out to students until they are inventoried, stamped and appropriately labeled. At the end of the academic year I inventoried all the books one more time and found out that only two or three books are not accounted for. Very soon there will be a need to replenish the books. There will also be a need to find appropriate magazines for the children to read.

I have a detailed list of all the check outs, but I have no metrics on popular books or on those students who checked out the most books or those who did not check out any books at all. The only way I know that a book is popular is by the fact that it acquires dog ears and some tearing across the folds. From my simple analysis, I now know that the biographies are not too popular whereas stories from epics, moral stories, such as the ones from Panchantanra and Jataka tales, humorous ones, especially Tenali Ramakrishna and Birbal stories, are very popular.

There are many things we can do to help students develop reading skills. In the next post I will discuss together what people like you and I can do!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jaya September 7, 2012 at 7:52 am

Sahadev, there are a few automated tools to maintain small libraries out there. How about a few people who want to help, contribute money to get that for your library? It will save a lot of your time to concentrate on other projects?

Btw, why were girls given the books before boys? Just curious to know your intention in doing that..


Sahadev Komaragiri September 7, 2012 at 11:29 am

Hi Jaya,
Thanks for the feedback. Could you please write about the available tools and may be links to the sites where I can read more about them. In rural schools, the biggest issue is with power cuts. Most of the day there is no power, so use of computers for automation is not taken up unless there is a guaranteed power back up which by the way is a very expensive option!

Regarding preference for girls, it is is a general practice in Sai schools that girls are given preference. This teaches our boys to develop respect and care for girls at a very early age.


chunduri Venkata Ramana Rao September 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Its a g8 effort . your effort to create strong foundation from school level is out standing.
especially for rural schools as well as in all good even corporate schools can make available on Late Prime minster n most respected Lal Bahadur Shastry , the reason he had come from grass root level n studied without lights n basic amenities . like him thee are many. if same thing can be created n published with colourful pictorial n small books like (comic-Books) what you have explained your experience n observation that will make a extra ordinary response from younger ones . especially inspiration, determination will to do &set an objective n achieve.
its suggestion


Jaya September 10, 2012 at 2:09 am

Did some reasearch on the tools available to maintain the library. I was looking for an Open source one. This is what I found. I don’t know anyone who has used them – I am going by the reviews and info on the web.

1. Looks like there is a popular open source tool called Koha which lot of organizations in India use. Only the S/W is free, I guess they have fee for other things. You may want to check with them. They may waive it for your nobel cause.
Here is the link….

2. Also found this one- looks good. But not sure of this one is for buying/selling books only or for managing the libarry too.
Seems like an ideal match for you from whatever info I could read. The excel sheet which you have can be imported into the s/w with ease by converting that into a CSV file

It does have some features to link to amazon etc which you can ignore.
It also has the option to scan bar codes, the scanner needed can probably bought from them for $70.
Most of all, it is free.

3. FAST Library Management System

FAST Library Management System is a professional application designed to enable you to easily manage your library business. It is a comprehensive library management system that provides following facilities login, register, add category, add / remove book, add / remove user, search / issue book, return book and many more.

Please let me know if you need help contacting them and getting any further info.



Jaya September 10, 2012 at 2:15 am

Also Sahadev, I have nailed down the links above based on my undertsanding of your library needs and requirements. Ignore them if they do not work for you. The Power cut problem may be a major one. You may have to weigh down pros and cons.



Gayathri Krishnamoorthy February 7, 2013 at 12:46 am

What a happy post! I was smiling when I read that seeing the students checking out books, teachers too started doing the same as did the school watchman. Its so simple yet so heartening to see kids read! I wish them all the best.


Radha April 10, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Hi Sahadev,
If possible, you may launch a “Donate a book” drive in corporates. They might be able to take this up as a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.


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