Chandler Public Library Gets Books In Marathi Language - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Public Library Gets Books In Marathi Language

October 8th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Chandler Public Library Gets Books In Marathi Language

By Srianthi Perera

Guest Writer

An estimated 83 million people speak the Indian language of Marathi, which is based in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital.

About 300 Marathi-speaking families reside in the Valley, of which more than 50 percent live in the Chandler-Gilbert area.

Recently, a Valley-based philanthropic organization called Akshaybhasha, in collaboration with the nonprofit Phoenix Metro Maharashtra Mandal, donated a collection of 300 books in the Marathi language to the Chandler Public Library.

The presentation was followed by a cultural program in keeping with Akshaybhasha’s local mission to preserve its language and traditions in the age of globalization. The group also has an assignment in its home state to eradicate iron-deficiency anemia in rural women.

“Putting a Marathi section in our public library is toward assimilation of our community into American society,” said Bhagyashree Barlingay, president and founder of Akshaybhasha, addressing the audience in the Copper Room of the Downtown library during the formal handover.

Barlingay first began collecting books for the Tempe Public Library in 2015 and realized the challenge of cataloging according to the American system when placing non-English books in public libraries.

Cataloguing requires basic training from library staff followed by tedious work where each book is placed alphabetically on an Excel spreadsheet. “When we bring non-English books to an American public library, it’s very obvious that we have to do our own basic cataloging,” she said.

After overcoming that challenge, early last year, the group donated a 400-strong collection to Tempe. Barlingay also plans a future addition of children’s books to Chandler and a collection for Mesa’s library system, although it may not be as large because the community does not have as many roots there.

Why books in 2018?

“This question has been asked again and again,” Barlingay said. “Books don’t need passwords. And books have a physical presence and our memories are created to our senses, so the feel of the books, the beauty of the cover, the smell of the new book, it’s all about creating good memories.

“I think that will be the legacy we’ll be passing on to our children,” she added.

Dan Lee, the manager of the Chandler Public Library said that books in international languages are difficult to obtain because they are expensive and the quality is suspect.

“We don’t have the expertise on staff to identify which ones are important,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important for us to have a community connection.”

While the Chandler library system has a Spanish language collection, it doesn’t have books in other foreign languages, Lee said.

“We’ll also love to have a Chinese language collection, a Hindi language collection, a collection of Vietnamese books,” he said, adding that these collections will also be added in the future.

Lee made a plug to the diverse community to come forward if they can work with the library to add a collection in their language.

“The library has a lot of programs to foster literacy and because the city is dedicated to embracing cultural diversity,” Lee said. “We have a bunch of conversation programs that people can participate in. Over the last year, we’ve had hundreds of people representing more than fifty different home languages. That’s why it’s so important for us to have collections like this.”

“Our library is more than just a repository of books,” said Chandler Mayor-Elect Kevin Hartke, who was among the dignitaries. “It’s a place of ideas, of hopes and dreams and it’s not just a physical location as all this and many is available online.”

He added: “We hope that you’ll not only feel welcomed to Chandler, but you also will take up Dan’s challenge to help us populate this with more dreams and ideas and stories and testimonies and those very powerful things that we read online and we read with the book in our hand.”

In addition to cataloging, Barlingay spoke of the volunteers who helped with transportation.

While Marati books are not very expensive to buy in India, bringing them across to the USA is a different matter.

“To mail them here is three times the cost of the books,” said Barlingay, who enlisted the help of friends and acquaintances to transport them over the course of several months.

The chief guest at the presentation was Professor Anne Feldhaus, the foundation professor of Religious Studies at Arizona State University. Feldhaus, whose subject of studies is the religious traditions of Maharashtra, speaks the language fluently, has a personal library of Marathi books, visits the state frequently and travels extensively, including to the remote villages where white people are an unusual sight to inhabitants.

Feldhaus related anecdotal stories of her attempts to speak Marathi with native speakers who were dumbfounded to hear a white woman speak their language and their continuous attempts to reply to her in English.

She also thanked the Chandler library for incorporating the collection.

“I have several Marathi-speaking colleagues and friends whose parents come to visit. Until now, they only had my Marathi library to borrow books from, she said, adding, “Thank you for putting Marathi and Maharashtra on the map of the U.S.”

Among the invitees was Madhuri M. Shanbhag, a professor of physics and a renowned author from Maharashtra, whose books were included in the collection.

The speeches and the formal book presentation were followed by a cultural program by adults as well as children who sang their songs and poems and performed skits with an emphasis on why books need to be preserved as much as technology needs to be embraced.

Rooted in Indo-Aryan languages, the dominant language family of the Indian subcontinent, Marathi is one of 22 languages of India.

In Chandler, the language has been taught at Marathi Shala (school) for five years by a group of women, Alka Ganpule, Kshama Takalkar, Poonam Mahajan, Sona Bhide and Shalaka Wakankar, who are dedicated to teaching their mother tongue to the next generation.

The curriculum of the school is provided by Bruhan Maharashtra Mandal, the organization that oversees the associations in North America and is accepted by the American public school systems in Chicago, Atlanta and Texas.

“This Marathi school also carries the same aspirations of recognition at public and charter school level,” Barlingay said.