P. J. O'Rourke once said that the library, with its Daedalian labyrinth, mysterious hush, and faintly ominous aroma of knowledge, has been replaced by the computer's cheap glow, pesky chirp, and data spillage. But what Kyra Roy started five years ago, at the age of 7, is slowly making sure that this doesn’t remain a universal truth for long. A tiff with her younger cousin Amyra sowed the seeds for a book bank in the beautiful garden that is Kyra’s mind. She felt that sharing her books with those who don’t have ready access to reading material would be the best way forward; and thus, Kyra’s Book Bank was born.

Books are a uniquely portable magic. – Stephen King

So what attracted Kyra to reading in the first place? At the age of 4, she read Clarise Bean by Lauren Child and enjoyed the series. “I became a voracious reader a few years later, when I was introduced to diary form books like Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell. That's when my mother told me I just had to find my favourite kind of books. It made sense to me, and in that moment, I thought, then everyone must have their favourite kind of books.”

Once the idea of donating her books took root, it took a few months to work out if she really wanted to go through with sending her books to kids she didn’t know or was it an ‘in-the-heat-of-the-moment-decision’. “My parents were firm in the fact that I shouldn’t start this if I wasn’t going to follow through and see it become something. The logistics took time to work out. In the beginning, I would ask for books when I visited my friends’ houses, or went on play dates, or at my classes.” Realisation soon dawned that all homes have books and many of these books were children’s or research books. The best way to let people know what she was doing and gain access to a wider collection was to put it on social media. Since Kyra wasn’t old enough to have her own Facebook account, her mother created a Facebook page for her called Kyra’s Book Bank – www.facebook.com/KyrasBookBank on 25th February, 2013 and there was no turning back, unless it was the pages of a book she had to ship somewhere specific.

Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities. - R. David Lankes

The book bank began its first project in the summer of 2013 with Punyatma Prabhakar Sharma Seva Mandal’s two schools - Anusuyatmaj Matimand Nivasi Vidyalaya and Indira Bharati Karn Badhir Nivasi Vidyalaya in Igatpuri. “These residential schools are part of the efforts towards reformation of underprivileged children in tribal areas of Maharashtra,” explains Kyra. “We gave them 450 books, as well as toys, board games, a fan, and even pens and crayons.” Coming back closer to home, because her cousin Arjun Puri worked with Teach For India at Gumpha High School in Jogeshwari, Kyra and her book bank supplied 400 books; and notebooks, pens, pencils, and colours as well as teaching supplies.”

This garnered Kyra the attention her book bank needed. Many opened their hearts and their collections and came forward to contribute books for those who didn’t have access to any. “We got books all the way from London,” enthuses Kyra. “We even got an enquiry to start my book bank in Orissa. I explained to them that all they needed was a school that required books and a drop off point. The books would find their way to them.”

A house without books is like a room without windows. – Heinrich Mann

Kyra’s book bank has grown from strength to strength. Books she has collected have made their way to a school in Jaipur; to the Bourgeois Home for Children battling cancer via Aap Ki Rasoi; to the Raigad High School, through the Rotaract Club of Ghatkopar, where she amassed around 400 books for their library; to Dr Mhatre’s Child Care, Goonj, Inner Wheel Club and many more. “We mostly stick to supplying books, as a book doesn't become less useful because someone else read it before me. A used activity or drawing book can’t be donated to a library. We do accept board games, carom boards, and sports equipment if it is in good condition, along with school-related materials like brand new stationary and sometimes clothes, bags, bottles, tiffin boxes and even bookshelves.”

“Last year, we got a message on my Facebook page from Ashita Nath, who was starting an English Medium School for Girls in Unnao, near Lucknow. They wanted to know if we could help them with library supplies. We sent them about 500 books, including a World Book Series and a Britannica Encyclopaedia, a sofa cum bed and cushions to make the library comfortable, and even bookshelves that my friend’s mother gave us.” For Kyra, this particular project has sweet memories, as Ashita had a baby not soon after and she named her Kyra! This year sees Kyra helping Jennifer Gadgil with the A. A. Paḍhaye School in Devrukh, near Ratnagiri. They have a school library and a library in each class. Kyra’s Book Bank sent them 300 books earlier this year and have promised them many more books once the summer is over.

A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them. - Lemony Snicket

So how does the logistics of Kyra’s Book Bank work? Well, it’s a pretty simple and straightforward system that Kyra has created. The books are dropped off to her building, her grandmother’s house or her parents’ office. Every time a carton is filled, the same is sent to her mother’s office. Before it’s time to send the books to a school, Kyra spends time with the full boxes, sorts them out into various cartons using the baselines of what the school sends her as a guide; for example age and subject. “The sorting is my favourite part,” describes Kyra. “I like making lists and organising, categorising, and cataloguing things out.”

To build up a library is to create a life. It’s never just a random collection of books. - Carlos María Domínguez

Kyra feels that she should take the time to create more book banks. “I try to take up projects that involve full libraries only during my vacations. School and other activities don’t allow me, all the year round, to collect the books I would want to and sort them like I should.” From the age of 7 till 12, Kyra has taken her book bank to a national level, with projects in Maharashtra, UP, Rajasthan, etc, over five years. She feels that taking things to an international level would be difficult for her to manage right now and just wishes for a Kyra’s Book Bank in every Indian state. There is no shortage of books, just a need for someone to take the time to collect, organise, and deliver them. By the time she reaches Class 12, she wants to have achieved helping schools in every state and have people volunteer to be collectors in each state. “The schools that need the aid are deeper within the country. I do everything myself. My mother only helps me with the final delivery and that's the part that costs. So, this is something anyone can do, and I feel, should do.”

If I was a book, I would like to be a library book, so I would be taken home by all different sorts of kids. - Cornelia Funke

Kyra’s year is peppered with many extracurricular activities. She has been learning to play the piano since she was four and is now able to play simple pieces by ear. She has also been skating since she was four, has represented Maharashtra at the Nationals for the past three years and holds 3 gold and 4 silver medals at the state level and 2 gold and 5 silver medals at the district level! She is currently also golfing with her dad. Given all of this, she has nurtured and grown her book bank from library to library and is a soul whose wisdom and efforts are an inspiration for all.  




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