The library shall find a place next to basic necessities of life – Anna

This inscription is found in both English and Tamil below the statue of former Chief Minister C.N.Annadurai at the entrance of the imposing Anna Centenary Library in Kotturpuram. But book lovers on Wednesday learnt that this structure may not house a library for long.

The news that Anna Centenary Library is going to be converted into a Super Speciality Paediatric Hospital came as a shock not just to the regular visitors but also to many waiting for membership to be launched so that they could borrow books from the library.

The vast collection of books on the eight floors of the library, their arrangement, the ambience, clean environment and the serene atmosphere and comfort of the place – many readers would swear by them. S. Yamuna, paediatrician and adolescent physician, who comes at least once a week to spend even a full day, says the collection is like “Ali Baba's treasure”.

“My perspective on reading changed after coming here. And getting to read the collection of books in the paediatric section was like a dream come true,” says Ms. Yamuna. She added: “Even Tamilnadu Dr. MGR Medical University does not have such a collection.”

Others such as social activist Nimmu Vasant said they will fight to maintain the status quo of the library. On Wednesday, after the news spread, the staff continued to go about their duties, but voiced apprehension whether all of them would be accommodated in the upcoming library.

It has about 100 permanent staff, besides people paid on a daily basis. The library has a collection of over five lakh titles. The classification and arrangement of books on the shelf is admired the most by readers. Reading in the air-conditioned rooms free of cost was a new experience for many.

It gets a footfall of 1,200 visitors on regular days and over 2,000 during weekends. Sections such as periodicals, ‘bring your own book' and the children's floor receive the maximum number of visitors. Its proximity to IIT-Madras, Anna University and a number of schools and technical institutions ensured the library got patronage right from the time it opened in September last year. At least, three schools visit the library on any working day, says a staff member. In fact, over the last five months the library was becoming more children-friendly by organising events such as story telling, Tamil drama and drawing class. The ‘own books' section was buzzing with activity on Wednesday as CA students occupied a majority of the seats preparing for their ongoing examinations.

Arun Raj, a final year engineering student, who visits the library four times a week, says he loves coming there as it helped him concentrate better. “When you see 50-60 people reading, it only gives your more motivation,” says Raj.

K.R. Lakshminarayanan, a retired employee of State Bank of India, says even at home I cannot read for more than two hours. “I have even spent the whole day here,” says the resident of Virugambakkam. He added, “We will miss this five star place.”