Thursday, November 15, 2012
Tamil Nadu's Directorate of Public Libraries manages over 4,000 libraries in the state. Of those, very few can claim to have a longer history than that of the Goschen Library in Chintadripet. INTACH's guide to Madras' buildings dates it to the end of the 19th century, but it is more possible that it was actually founded in 1927 - the 2nd Viscount Goschen took up his position as Governor of Madras only in 1924. Of course, both may be correct; the building could have served as a public meeting place before being re-purposed as a library, in which case, we should also know something of its original name.
That's not difficult, for there is something on the facade; as far as it an be made out from the picture, it is something like "P. V... Chetty's Hall". It would be far easier to read it on the building itself. So, it is possible that the public hall was taken over to establish The Goschen Library. In its heyday, it had over 15,000 books. Today, like many other public libraries, it serves as a quite place for those wishing to read the daily newspapers; anything more substantial may be expecting too much from the vast majority of the 4,000 libraries in the state.
It was too early for visitors - the library opens at 8 am, shuts for lunch at 12.30 pm and then, after a siesta, functions again between 4 pm and 8 pm. One of these days, one must get into this library during the working hours and try to figure out how many of those 15,000 books remain!