Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Open for reading?
As far as I can make out, the first state in independent India to pass 'library legislation' was Madras; today's Tamil Nadu Public Libraries Act is essentially the Madras Public Library Act of 1948. The name had to be changed once the state's name changed from Madras to Tamil Nadu, but that was it.
It is not as if there were no libraries in the state - or this city - before this legislation. The oldest library, in the current sense of the word, in Chennai would be the Connemara Library, which is one of India's 4 National Repository Libraries (which means that a copy of any publication, anywhere in India, has to be sent to the Connemara Library, as well as the 3 other NRLs). The Department of Public Libraries therefore considers Connemara the jewel in its crown. Three other libraries shine equally: the U Ve Swaminatha Iyer Library and Maraimalai Adigalar Library in Chennai and Thanjavur's Maharaja Serfoji Sarasvati Mahal Library.
There a 32 District Central Libraries and 1664 Branch Libraries spread throughout the state. Chennai has one central library for the district and about 140 branch libraries. Including the biggies, there would be about 150 libraries in the city. Of course, these are only the public libraries; circulating libraries like the Eloor Lending Library are not included in this count. By one study a few years ago, the book use index in Chennai's public libraries was 13.18, which means that each user gets through 13.18 books a year on the average. That doesn't seem like much, but when I can't remember a single day that I have seen this Branch Library at Adyar open, it seems to be quite a feat!