Chennai senior citizen is helping start free libraries across the city

Mahendra Kumar from Chennai looks at books with deep respect and passion. In 2015, he decided to do something to encourage more people to read.

He started a library in Thirumullaivoyal in Chennai. It was more than a usual lending library. For one, it was set up in a cement shop, where 69-year-old Kumar shared a table with the shopkeeper.

The other reason that made it so unique was that there was no membership fee upon joining up. Nor is there a register to keep track of the books being borrowed and returned.

Anyone could walk in, pick up one of the books, and take it home. They could give it back whenever they wanted.

This was the start of the Read and Return Free Library (RFL). Today, there are 66 such libraries across Tamil Nadu, and a few other states. There are 48 RFL libraries in Chennai alone. The others are in Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Aurangabad, and Mumbai.

His first library in Thirumillaivoyal has now expanded to three cupboards, which he keeps outside his house. There is still no register kept tracking who is taking them. Kumar says he wants people to be free to read and return books.

Kumar has convinced others to start such libraries. In the past two years, RFL libraries have sprung up in many different places like gated communities, railway stations, hospitals, and even a barber shop.

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