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In Kolkata, children can now visit a floating library

The city's first-ever boat library is the latest in a series of such mobile reading ventures started by artists and institutions around the world

Kolkata's boat library will contain over 500 titles in English and Bengali. Photo: iSTOCKPHOTO
Kolkata's boat library will contain over 500 titles in English and Bengali. Photo: iSTOCKPHOTO

Now Kolkata is all set to get its first ever floating library. Earlier this week, the West Bengal Transport Corporation, in collaboration with a heritage book store, launched a children's library on a boat, "the first of its kind initiative", according to an official.

The idea of the Young Readers' Boat Library is to encourage children to read while appreciating the cityscape, as viewed from the boat. While cruising on the Hooghly river, the kids will be able to choose from a selection of 500 titles in both English and Bengali. The three-hour-long journey, which will start at Millennium Park, will travel to Belur Math jetty and then head back.

The concept of the floating library is not new. One has seen several examples of these across the world in various shapes and sizes. PopUp Libraries—an artist-led social initiative to establish small libraries in public spaces, community and art centres—carried one such listing about The Floating Library in Minnesota, which started as an interactive public art project by Sarah Peters."It is a floating raft on a lake, with bookshelves, and is accessible by boat. The Library hosts a collection of artist-made books and printed matter and visitors are invited to paddle up to the Library in their boat and browse the shelves," stated the listing.

Peters' initiative had to take a hiatus in 2019, but that hasn't stopped her from encouraging people to make their own makeshift libraries. "The boat rental is there and waiting for you already! Any book will do, or you could drop by a couple of the fantastic shops in town who peddle in artist books and pick up a copy of something," writes Peters on the library's website, while sharing a list of some of the stores.

And then there is the boat library in Sweden, which ferries books to the remote islands of Stockholm's archipelago. According to an article on Atlas Obscura, the Stockholm Library Service rents a boat for a week and brings books to 23 inhabited islands. "Each spring and fall, the boat is packed with approximately 3,000 books and sets sail along Stockholm’s eastern seaboard as an aquatic library," it states.

Meanwhile in Kolkata, the boat library will not just contain books but will also host activities such as storytelling, dramatised readings, poetry sessions, book launches, music and more. According to an article in the PTI, there will be three trips on all weekdays. The boat has a free wifi facility as well. And a ride on the boat would cost 100 for adults and 50 for children.

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