Librarian, Blogger, Dreamer…
I am grateful to everyone who taught, guided, supported and inspired me since my decision some twenty years ago to pursue librarianship as my career.
I still remember the days, before joining BLISc, when I enjoyed the opportunity to team up with a dedicated group of people lead by Poovachal Retnakaran that construct a new building for the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Central Library on the Poovachal Panchayath premises under the Kerala State People’s Planning Programme. I received a formal membership of this library at the age of eleven and had tried hard to be a daily visitor during my school days. This local public library was my home from where I started my passionate journey with books and the people, who loved not only reading but also sharing what they know. The small cultural gatherings held at Samadarshini Arts Club and in the classrooms of local tuition centres where we (Poovachal Retnakaran, S.N. Jayaprakash, Seyd Sabarmathy, and many others) used to discuss books and burning topics, were such an enlightening experience. We had serious discussions on each other’s poems, stories and literary criticism in these meetings. Later, ‘Bodhavedi’, a literary discussion forum happened. The programmes were conducted in Trivandrum Club, where city based writers and readers came together to share their reading experiences. During that time I joined the ‘Millennium Batch’ at the Trivandrum Press Club and found new friends with diverse ideas and thoughts. All such experiences later helped me in choosing my career and passion, Librarianship.
Immediately after completing MLISc in 2003, when I got a call to join Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan as a Librarian, I went to meet my favourite teacher Smt Lalitha Lenin. My first posting was at KV Baramulla, in Jammu and Kashmir and I was in a dilemma whether to go or be safe here with a newly opened private Management Institute, where I got an appointment as a Librarian. She had only one message for me, “leave everything aside, set, go and join”. That drove me to Kashmir alone and give a surprise to all the staff of the school who thought that the teacher will definitely not head up to take such a long journey of four days and join.
From the beginning itself KVS gave me immense support and freedom. Whatever wired ideas or experiments I devised to enhance reading skills, library atmosphere, user engagements and creating connections, KVS provided me with a solid platform and encouraged me to dream and do more. CDS ISIS, an Information Storage and Retrieval system developed by UNESCO was my first try in the ICT area. My first two Principals (Late) Shri S.K. Sharma and Shri D. S. Ram stood with me to make the library the best one in KVS Jammu Region. I fondly remember the bright and curious faces of little children of the school who enjoyed their library time very much. Sumeet, Harleen, Falak, Bilkees, Samiya, Parmeet, Ramanjeet and many more.
KV Pattom opened before me a big window to umpteen number of opportunities. I focused on integration of ICT in library services, innovations to support learning and initiatives to develop social responsibility and sharing. Dr Cicy Roy Mathew was the Principal when I joined here in 2007. The sheer energy and inspiration she resonated among the staff and children was legendary in many ways. At the end of the first year, we launched the first school library blog of India that was inaugurated by the then Education Officer Shri D. Manivannan. That was followed by the automation of the library and creation of the Online Home works portal and an E-magazine. It was a pleasure to everyone to listen to Lalitha Lenin Teacher who visited the library to inaugurate the Readers’ Club in April 2008. KV Pattom received the KVS-Intel Best Integration of Technology in Education in Schools Award in 2009.
2010 started with Library Junction (LJ), an academic social network with 1000+ students and a group of teachers, to provide a safe and moderated social networking experience purely for learning and networking. There were online reading groups on Library Junction on Agatha Christie, Harry Potter, Aliens, APJ Abdul Kalam, Albert Einstein, etc. Jayalakshmi Mam and Jalaja Mam did collaborative wiki projects with students on LJ. It was a successful experiment which gained huge support from students and teachers. The project was selected for the Innovation and Experimentation Awards instituted separately by NCERT and KVS in 2010-’11. I thank Mr C. P. Kumaran, the then Principal who supported me greatly to make it possible. On behalf of the school we together received the NCERT award in New Delhi that year. I remember the stars of the library Salini Johnson, Mukulika Radhakrishnan, Abhijith Narayanan, Kanchana Manilal, Meera Nazar, Swapna Vincent, Roshni Sreekumar, Rachna Ramesh, Meera Anand and a number of other young minds.
Then came the KV Librarians Network where more than 400 KV Librarians got connected and shared ideas and discussed their concerns. The platform gave me an insight into the real life status of KV Libraries and Librarians. At that time, I was working along with Ms Ishrat Parveen that on drafting a Guideline and Procedure Manual for KV Libraries and this network helped us to collate ideas and initiate discussions on basic issues. My experience with Kerala Library Association (KLA) as its General Secretary during 2011-2013 was greatly rewarding. Celebrated teachers, seasoned veteran librarians and young Turks, all were there to strengthen the LIS field in Kerala. I got an opportunity to serve as Treasurer too in another term. I learned many things from KLA that helped me a lot when planning to form SLA-India later in 2018. The IASL/Softlink International Excellence Award received in 2012 at the IASL Annual Conference held in Doha was an eye opener for me to the world of International School Librarianship. The newly created connections brought up a number of ideas and insights.
One of my pet projects ‘Gift a Book & Get a Friend’ was the result of the realization of what our students were missing when they ignored the social realities outside their comfort zones. The project began at Government Upper Primary School, Palkulangara on December 6, 2013 and now covered 7 schools and connected more than 2000 children through 4000+ books. I would like to appreciate all students who celebrated this annual event with joy and put in effort in organizing it without any glitches. Empathy, sharing and love were the feelings children went through while participating in the programme. I thank everyone including the Principals Ms Neerada S., Mr S.Ajayakumar and teachers Ms Chandrika Kumari, Ms Jayalakshmi, Ms Rekha Rajan, Ms Asha Devi, Ms Divya R. Nath who supported me in organizing this social responsibility initiative. How can I forget the stars of the GaB like Aajma Manoj, Angel Vinod, Rakshanya Sekhar, Athira Menon, Gayathri Babu, Prarthana Manoj, Ambika Devi, Nyma Nazreen, Gouri G.L., Lakshmi R.J., Vishwa Asokan, Deepak D.K., Abhaumika, Raima Ghatak, Sreya R. Menon, Megha Joshi, Naveena Pradeep, Chandana Hari, Anandapadmanabhan, and many more.
‘Face a Book Challenge’, a summer reading challenge programme, launched in 2014 has a big fan following. The challenge was aimed to develop 21st century learning skills in students through a number of activities. There were wonderful FaB challengers who participated in FaB throughout these years like Ashifa S.S., Kanchana, Rahul C.K., Soheb Vahab, Janaki Sudhir, Gayathri Sankar, Niranjana R. Nair, Viji V. R., Aishwarya Pradeep, Joel John, Christeena Jacob, Ashika Mohan, Gouri R., Lekshmi Deyal, Meera Nair, Nandana V. L.,Nayana V.L., Girish V. S., Neeraja Unnikrishnan, Suryasree, Anagha Anil, Poorna Jayalal, Aparna Jose,Kalyani Santhosh, Ananya B, Binisha, Rhetika, and more. The project received the KVS innovation Award in 2016 and is still going strong.
During these periods the recognitions I received (KVS Regional And National Incentive Awards (2014 & 2018), IASL SchoolLibrarianship Award (2016), Dr. G. Devarajan Best Librarian Award (2017) and National ICT Award (2017) were the result of the freedom that I enjoyed in the form of unlimited support from the Principal Shri S. Ajayakumar and the love and inspiration that I gained from the dynamic students of KV Pattom. Their proactiveness and sheer energy were the wings where I placed my dreams. And that went up and flew high for a long time.
Other experiments such as E-Reading Hub, ‘Read my Buddy’, ‘Infobreak’, and ‘Little Open Library’, and the latest additions launched during the Covid-19 pandemic like Virtual Library, Audio Library, Karaoke, and the Library on Smartphone all were my efforts to reach out to the users where they were. Some were more successful than others and the feedback from the students helped me a lot to revise my plans and strategies. All these initiatives were carried out along with the successful execution of KVS School Library Guidelines.
As envisioned in the policy, KV Librarians could slowly but gradually relocate themselves into the academic layer and were technically re-designated as Trained Graduate Teacher Librarians. This made a lasting impact and I thank KVS for taking this bold step which will definitely reaffirm the undeniable role Teacher Librarians are playing in improving academic achievement and developing 21st century skills in students and in turn making them lifelong learners and responsible citizens. Hats off to all School Librarians. Thanks to all the friends in LIS who shared their ideas with me and keep connected.
I am happy that I could create a space in the school where all are always welcomed. There is no ‘Keep Silence’ board in the library. I believe in facilitating a dynamic environment in the library where users can read, think, create and share whatever they like. I used to tag my library as a place “where minds meet and ideas pop up!”, a third space which is always open and friendly. This made the library to receive the ‘Reading for Pleasure School’ Award 2020. I believe that the library could support KV Pattom to be ranked by Education World as the Best Govt. Day School in India in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2020.
On the professional front, the formation of the School Library Association-India in 2018 was a dream come true moment for both of us, Ms Madhu Bhargava and me. We are happy that the Association grew into a thriving platform where dynamic school library professionals are groomed with skills for the new century. I have learned a lot from SLA-India. It is quite self empowering and rejuvenating to be in the midst of SLA Team members who look for the future with hope and try hard to realise the objectives.
I thank Dr Uma Sivaraman, Shri Sheikh Mohammed Saleem, Shri S. Selvaraj, Shri C Karunakaran (former, Deputy Commissioners, KVS Ernakulam Region), Mr R Senthil Kumar (DC,KVS RO, Ernakulam), Smt Deepti Nair and Shri Santhosh Kumar N.( Assistant Commissioners, KVS RO Ernakulam) for their continuous support and guidance.
My gratitude to Mr B. Surandran, from whom I learned a number of real life library lessons and Ms Vidhya V. L., who has been working with me for the last many years, for their continuing support and cooperation.
I express my thanks to students, teachers, parents, alumni and everyone who lightens up my journey to reach here. I have mentioned only a few names here but there are many. I value every person who comes across and every act of love, sharing and friendship. All such moments give me strength and hope to pursue my profession with more courage and passion.
I know there is no need for any expression of gratitude in public to one’s own family but here I would like to say it in words. Thank you Khadeeja for always standing beside and inspiring me. Love to Diya and Rizwan.
I would like to end this slightly long piece of acknowledgement with love and gratitude to my parents, Shri Shahul Hameed (late) and Smt C. A. Laila Beevi (both of them were teachers) for giving me the freedom to follow my passion in life. My father used to say about selecting one’s career, be anywhere you like, but be the best always.
Thank you Govt. of India for selecting me for the National Award to Teachers 2021 and honouring Indian School Librarianship.
The journey continues. Let’s move forward with new dreams.
S. L. Faisal