Missing visiting libraries in Bengaluru? Here's a way to get the library experience at home

From virtual real-time view of books to chatbot engagements, libraries are offering bibliophiles a library-like experience at home

author_img Sanath Prasad Published :  13th November 2021 06:01 PM   |   Published :   |  13th November 2021 06:01 PM

For Pooja Agarwal, an entrepreneur, and mother of Shaurya (10) and Riya Chhapolia (4), borrowing books through online requests and digital catalogues seems to be more convenient these days. Thanks to the current health crisis, reading is taking a new shape in Bengaluru with old-time libraries opting for new-age technology, including virtual real-time views and chatbot features. All of this is creating a library-like experience at home.

Some book rental companies now believe that delivering books to the doorstep and offering digital services to readers is the safest option. “My kids now eagerly wait every weekend for the books to be delivered home. I usually pick up four fictional books and read them aloud to them.

Raising requests online for borrowing books is serving its purpose considering that the health crisis is here to stay for sometime,” says Agarwal. Agrees Priya Balasubramanian. “Instead of walking through the library and checking out each rack, online catalogues make it easy to filter out our choices based on age groups and genres, at one click. Tapping into the digital world has given us readers a wider scope to analyse and understand books.”

Just Books, a Bengaluru-based book rental company, has introduced virtual walk-throughs across their stores in the city. According to Suresh Narasimhan, chairman of the company, there has been an 80 per cent increase in doorstep delivery of books compared to 2018 and 2019 which stood at only 20 per cent. “We have introduced a virtual real-time view of our branches. Readers can access real-time information on the availability of books at different stores. Our members are now using this a lot more and normally borrow books once every 10 days,” says Narasimhan.

Those missing out on the reading experience at libraries are turning to those which host online book events to keep readers engaged. For example, My Hangout, a library based in Bellandur, conducts online reading sessions with authors and encourages people to write blogs on must-read books. According to Aanchal Agarwal, founder of the library, there are at least two online book events to keep members in line with what’s happening in the book scene.

“Recently we had an online book event with Bulbul Sharma who writes stories for children. We saw many kids logging onto video conferencing platforms for the session. Moreover, we are now encouraging members to write book reviews through blogs. It helps in cultivating reading habits among other members,” says Agarwal, who adds that books related to parenting, self-help and food are seeing a demand these days.

Anitha Annamalai, founder of Nool Library, near Old Airport Road, has a dedicated online team working on chatbots to address queries related to books. “Although the chatbot feature existed earlier, we are now seeing more engagement with readers after the pandemic. We aim to offer personalised book recommendations to our readers and introduce them to new sets of books and help them create a virtual bookshelf of their own,” says Annamalai.