Steward Spotlight: Aditi Jain

By Megan Hanson

Aditi Jain went to the same school for 14 years, from kindergarten to graduation. Her school had a program called “Good Reading,” where at the start of every school year, each child was challenged to read a specific number of pages or books by the end of the year. Aditi was one of only two kids to receive the “Good Reader” award for 14 consecutive years, thanks in large part to her mother who spent countless hours encouraging her to read.

“Looking back and feeling grateful for all those years I spent around books and libraries, I felt the need to start a library of my own. Although I had known about the Little Free Library concept for quite some time, it was when I saw Kiara Bose Roy’s LFL in Mumbai that I finally decided to set up one of my own. For that, I will always have a lot of love in my heart,” says Aditi. (Read more about Kiara, one of the winners of the 2020 Todd H. Bol Awards for Outstanding Achievement.)

Aditi faced more than few road blocks as she tried to bring her Little Free Library to life. Most of her community weren’t familiar with the Little Free Library concept and the book culture isn’t as strong in New Dehli as in other parts of the world. But she persisted! In the summer of 2021, she established Aditi’s Little Free Library #117825 in New Dehli, India. Find it on the Little Free Library world map!

What challenges did you face starting the Little Free Library?

At first, a lot of the people I shared my idea with thought that it was a waste of time and resources, as kids from nearby slums or construction sites would simply vandalise the library. They had no clue an organisation like Little Free Library existed.

On the day of our library’s inauguration, I circulated an ‘invitation video’ in my colony’s whatsapp group, wherein I described the Little Free Library concept, why it is important and what my purpose with this library is. I also mentioned that whoever wants to come by and keep a book of their own in the library, they are most welcome to do so. I think that video really helped.

On the day we set up this library, a lot of people from different age groups came by, talked to me for hours till dark about the initiative, and donated some great books to the library!

How has your Little Free Library been received?

I think the response I got for my library was a lot more positive than I expected it to be. I was afraid of random kids misusing the books, or vandalising the library itself. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen. I keep a check on the books and apart from the ones that have been borrowed, most of them are there.

The one challenge I did face was people continuing to question the “point” of putting in all this time and energy into something that seemed so “unnecessary” to them. But I haven’t been disheartened…. I keep in mind all those kids and young adults who visit the library regularly now, and leave sweet comments for me to read.

This brings me to another detail of my library—I decided to keep a pen and a notepad in my library from the beginning. On the side of the box I’ve pasted ‘Library Rules’ which mention how it will be appreciated that if anyone wishes to take or leave a book, they write their name, book title, date of issue, and date of return. Some people leave comments on this notepad which are an absolute delight for me to read.

What has surprised you the most since starting a Little Free Library?

I think how responsible and regular certain people have been was one of the most surprising aspects. Nobody expected the library to get such a great turnout and feedback. But because of our indifference to all the “nos” and our determination to see this box up there in the colony park, there are kids who now sit on benches reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid or older visitors of the park who read some Hindi Classics that we chose to keep in the library.

Do you have any advice for others who want to start a Little Free Library?

If you want to start a Little Free Library, just do it! Listen to people who raise concerns. If you give it the right kind of thought, these questions will only prepare you better. Figure out ways to tackle those roadblocks, give people their answers, and leave the rest to the power of reading.

In case you need some quick motivation, remind yourself of this: everything you’ve heard about the feeling you get after doing something good, it’s true. All of it. When you see people reading books from your library, it’ll be unlike anything you ever expected or imagined. Believe me.

Also, do think of some ways in which you can regularly check on your library. I think building a team of people living near you who can help you take care of the library is a good idea. My library is set up in the park that is right in front of my home, and I go there for a walk every evening. So for me it was easy to check on it.

If reading isn’t prevalent in your city or country, please know that it’s all the more reason for you to start a little library! Just try to stock it with books that can cater to as many people as possible. Figuring out what kind of neighbours you have, what age groups they belong to, may help you make that choice of books. If your visitors are a diverse group, you have increased the chances of your library making more sense in an otherwise book-devoid community.

Keep up with Aditi and her Little Free Library by following her on Instagram!

Read more in the steward spotlight series or learn how to start a Little Free Library of your own!

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