Ever so often I come across an initiative, an organisation, a person or a group of people, a book, a film, an article, a piece of music… that leaves me feeling enthused. Since it also leaves me wondering why I haven’t heard of it before, I set off on an eager and happy quest to find out more about it. When such an initiative is that of a friend, it leaves me a little shocked. Pleasantly and happily shocked, I must hasten to clarify, as it happened when I heard of the Knowledge Whiteboard Library. Let me elaborate.
It all began with a telephone conversation a couple of months back with Rajshri Mahtani, founder of Knowledge Whiteboard (KW), and also a friend and a former colleague. Somewhere during our conversation Rajshri casually mentioned something about a library at the KW and the growing collection of books. I was intrigued and was left thinking… library? What library? How come I don’t know anything about it?
I decided to visit the KW office, which is located Santacruz in Mumbai and find out more about the library for myself. Sometime last month that is just what I did and sure enough, there was an interesting story waiting for me. 🙂
The non-governmental (NGO) sector in India, which is perhaps the largest in the world, employs some of the most committed, hard-working, passionate and selfless people I have known. Interestingly, the NGO sector also grapples with a paradox of sorts — in their single-minded focus to empower the vulnerable, the marginalised and the disadvantaged, their own empowerment and capacity-building as change agents has never really been a priority. The reasons for this are varied and they range from lack of funds to a refusal to acknowledge the need to build capacity.
It was in such a scenario that Rajshri, who has over two decades of experience in the social development sector, set up Knowledge Whiteboard in August 2011 to “strengthen NGOs as strategic social change organisations”. Towards this, KW offers long-term and short-term training programmes, and one-on-one facilitation on an individual basis.
During the training programmes, it was discovered that a combination of a lack of resources, time and accessibility prevented many professionals in the NGO sector from keeping themselves abreast with the latest national and international developments in their field.
The idea of Knowledge Whiteboard Library (KWL) was born then to offer participants of the various training programmes a space to read, refer, reflect and use the knowledge gained from the latest literature in the field. Rajshri began KWL with her own collection of books and expanded to include the vast collection it has today over the last few months. Currently, the library has a holding of 1,000 physical books and over 200,000 in electronic version or as soft copies. The super-specialised collection of KWL reflects the areas of work that KW focuses on — child rights and child services; women’s empowerment; natural resources (with a focus on water); research methods, strategic management; policy research, education, and think tanks.
Time to feast you eyes on a selection of the books at KWL now. 🙂
The KWL collection is a constantly growing one as latest publications in the focus areas get added.
Books, working papers, journals and journal articles, research and policy briefs, discussion notes, conference proceedings, compendiums, bibliographies — you can find them here.
The library functions as a reading room and not as a lending library. The best thing about KWL, in my opinion, is that it is open to anyone working in the NGO sector and usage of the library facilities is absolutely free.
This was the first time I was visiting a super-specialised library. Though the range of books in the KWL was not exactly my area of interest, I could see the clear benefits of having such a focused collection in one place. As Rajshri said:
It is important for knowledge learning to be easy and accessible to development professionals as they have a hard time on the field. It is a priority for us to offer that space and facility to them.
KWL is just the first step towards placing knowledge for social development within the reach of those who need it the most — the development professionals. Future plans for the KWL include Focused Discussion Papers on contemporary debates in the field, and emerging areas of research from across the world. In fact, the Knowledge Whiteboard Library believes in integrating learning and knowledge from around the world.
It was wonderful getting to know about an initiative like the KWL and even more wonderful to know that this was by a friend. For someone like me, who is always thinking of starting a library, this was very inspiring and encouraging. My only regret, if you can call it that, is that I didn’t know of KWL earlier making me wonder if I lived in an alternate universe or under a rock !
PS: If you’d like to know more about Knowledge Whiteboard Library (and I really hope you do), please write to Rajshri at rajshri[at]knowledgeresourcecentre.com for more details.