The concept of Reading Room is unique. It is very closely related to a Library, still it is different.
A Library is a place which displays collection of all varieties of books and allows its members (both life members and temporary members) to use it at a nominal fee. But, the important aspect to be noticed here is that all members who visit a library must have an inclination towards reading. Unfortunately, this fever of reading is dying slowly in this modern era. To invoke this reading habit, the library must have a Reading Room within its premises to add to the flavor.
A Library can be established in an area of 100 sq. ft with shelves for books and a place for one person to sit and manage the same. (I am not referring about the libraries in metropolitan cities but of rural areas). As a matter of fact, my personal observation led me to a conclusion that many registered libraries are being inaugurated to obtain government grants. They are running with a handful of members in a very small premises and the existence of such a library is hardly known by the people of the same village. Harsh but true.
Also, a library caters to the need of general reading, which is definitely good at mass level but it fails to deliver on academic front. An average student, who is not a ranker, a scholar finds that mere supply of books during exams days aren't enough (for his parents might have provided all the books in the world). Alas!!! it does not help him a great deal.
This concept of Academic Reading Room occurred to my mind during my college days. We, friends, used to look out for a place to study (especially during night time). This helps an average student immensely. If the group has even one studying student who knows the concepts well, he helps the entire group to perform better. And also, when one observes his friend is reading, he automatically puts his head down and turns a few pages, which he did not do ever before. The only negative aspect of group study was once a matter came for discussion which was out of academics, everyone would close their books and contribute wholeheartedly in the debate and studies would go out of the window for that day.
Fortunately, being a teacher, a few more finer points came to my observation that a reading room must have separate cabins for boys and girls, so that natural attraction is avoided. Supervisors need to be appointed to take care of unnecessary discussions. Proper timings should be allotted for studying. The only disadvantage of this project of Reading Room was it was not commercially viable. Hence, when this concept was explained to many business people (who could actually afford to do charity), rejected out-rightly.
But, as fate had already in store, I myself purchased a property ad-measuring 2000 sq.ft and inaugurated a Academic Reading Room in the heart of the city. We formed a charitable association, V.K.MEMORIAL WELFARE ASSOCIATION and under the name and banner of this association started this library and reading room on 1.1.2007.
The land area was limited and the capacity of students to study was limited, so a concept was formulated whereby students were allotted slots of 4 hours in a day - (a) morning (7-11), (b) afternoon (12-4) and (c) evening (5-9) at an economical fee of Rs.50 per month. For students having higher inclination to study were provided 10 hour slots- (d) morning (9am to 7pm) and (e) night (9pm to 7am). The night batch was exclusive for boys and with prior permission of parents. The fee charged was Rs.100 per month. A supervisor to look after the students at night batch.
The concept was an instant hit among student fraternity and in the first three months, the registration soared to 200 numbers. Slowly and steadily, as the word of mouth spread, the registrations started flowing in steadily. Today the reading room boasts of having around 1000 students annually from all fields of life.
In the early days of reading room, it was occupied during exam days of September to March. But as students experienced knowledge gain, the reading room is occupied for all the 12 months now a days. A consistent time in their daily schedule made their learning experience an added advantage.
Initially, the reading room faced financial constraints at all grounds but with proper management now the reading room is self-sufficient and caters to the needs of students community at large.
The ICAI have joined hands with VKMWA and provide a separate reading room for CA students residing in nearby areas, free of cost. This facility is included in our reading room premises itself.
This concept of Reading Room should be spread allover in every district and taluka level, and serve the student community forever.
(This Library and Reading Room is in existence at Kalyan East, Thane District as V.K.Memorial Library and Reading Room @ Basement, Jai Shree Ram Bhuvan CHS Ltd, Near ZP School, Station Road, Kalyan E. The author is the Chairman of V.K.Memorial Welfare Association)