Diya Bansal has created a free “library” of more than 200 books in her building’s lobby. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A 15-year-old Indian girl in Dubai has created a free “library” of more than 200 books in her building’s lobby to promote reading during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diya Bansal, who lives in Solaire Building, Al Nahda 2, would see children and grown-ups in the lobby “whiling away their time on their phone and social media”. This was around 14 months ago, when stay-at-home directives were in place and residents were studying or working from home.

“I wanted them to use this time more effectively and what better than gaining knowledge or entertaining yourself with books. Also, a lot of my friends during the lockdown could not meet each other and their only entertainment was to be on their devices for school as well as to pass the time,” said Diya, who is currently distance learning in Dubai for Grade 10 from Jayshree Periwal International school, Jaipur, India. She is a former student of GEMS Modern Academy, Dubai.

Book shelf
Earlier, when Diya's collection comprised just a single book shelf. Image Credit: Supplied

Diya said she was also motivated to set up the library as she was inspired by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to get children reading more.

Starting with 16 books

“With my parents’ help, I placed a bookshelf in my building lobby, and placed 16 used books in it from my [home]. I publicised it as a free library to encourage people to pick up a book and read, and to contribute their own shares of pre-read books.”

To get the initiative rolling, she would stand in the lobby and speak to residents passing by, to encourage them to use the library. “I trained the building guards also to speak the same to anyone who comes in their contact. I requested my mother to communicate about the initiative in WhatsApp groups,” she said.

More books
Diya has also created free bookmarks for use by the readers. Image Credit: Supplied

Based on good faith

Residents are free to exchange books without entry in a register, making it “hassle-free” to use the library. “Following my passion for art, I created fun bookmarks for distribution with the displayed books.”

Doubling up shelves

Within four months, the capacity of the library had to be doubled by adding a second bookshelf. “I am so proud that within few months the library has reached 200-plus books in various categories like kids, fiction, cookery, management, religion and self-help books.

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‘Go-to place’

“It has added a positive touch to my building, and people happily talk about it. It is heartening to see that the library has become a preferred go-to place for people waiting in the lobby, thereby increasing their knowledge and language skills,” Diya said.

The library is now attracting people from neighbouring buildings as well, she added. “My school Jayshree Periwal International school, Jaipur, India and my previous school Gems Modern Academy Dubai have guided me to do positive little changes in our society, and I am extremely proud to be following such brilliant schools.”