We, Ganesh and Deepu, set off for Panamattom National Library in Kottayam on Saturday, 23 Jun 2012. It was raining heavily and Kottayam was at its scenic best with its greenery and high range drives. Panamattom is a remote village, 38 km away from Kottayam town. We took the morning train from Trivandrum to Kottayam, took a bus from there to Ponkunnam, the nearest town and then an auto-rickshaw to the library.
The library was started in 1951 and has been selected as the model library in the state by the State Library Council in 2001. The library is the cultural centre of the village in which all members of the village take an active part.
We fell in love with the library's rustic look and the warmth of its members made us welcome there. Mr Binu, Vice President of the library, received us and introduced us to other members and showed us around. Our mission was to record the history of Panamattam and the library on Internet by developing a website in WordPress.
Sometime back our friends had come here to prepare the volunteers for this workshop. They had given training to a group of school children who were later given the task of collecting information about their village. They were also given digital cameras to take pictures. Children had great fun with the camera and took this as an opportunity to rediscover their neighbourhood. Adults gave them direction and support. The children also interviewed older members of the community to collect more information.
We sat with the children and introduced them to WordPress. We had typed in the content collected by the children ahead of the workshop so as not to waste a lot of time typing in Malayalam. So we could move on to publishing the content quickly. Unfortunately, we had to manage with just one laptop as the library's computer had broken down. With the help of Mr. Binu we were able to map important locations in the village. These maps were also added to the pages.
In the evening we were invited to an open-forum discussion on 'Pollution and Environment', organised by the library. It was heartening to see the spirit of honest debate and exchange in the village, which was something new for us city-dwellers.
On 24th morning, the website was formally launched by the President of the library, Mr. Raju. The children were lauded for their efforts in setting up the site. The President said, "This is only the beginning. We will keep up the momentum, work on web-inclusion and set an example for other libraries in the state". We have made a perfect start and hope to extend this campaign to other libraries in the state. This is not our last visit to Panamattom, as the children look forward to more training programmes from us. And there is this unfinished task of fixing the library's computer.