The Anna Centenary Library (ACL) at Kotturpuram is eating up most of the funds meant for maintaining public libraries in the city, as the facilities on the premises included four auditoriums or halls, Commercial Taxes and Registration Minister C. Ve. Shanmugam said in the Assembly on Thursday.

Intervening in the debate on the Governor's address, Mr. Shanmugam said the previous DMK regime had needlessly packed the campus with a huge auditorium that could seat a thousand people, a conference hall, a mini-hall and an amphitheatre.

“From a revenue of Rs. 12 crore, maintaining the library, including payment of salaries, costs the government Rs.8 crore a year. This amount is taken from Chennai district public libraries department. In effect, funds meant for 158 branch libraries in the city are spent on the Anna library,” he said.

“Why does the library need four public halls? One conference hall is fine, but why an open air theatre? I suspect that there was some ulterior motive behind having so many facilities,” Mr. Shanmugam said.

The Minister, who held the School Education portfolio until recently, said the library was very much functional and that the government had never said it would be closed down now.

“The order (envisaging conversion of the ACL complex at Kotturpuram into a super-specialty paediatric hospital) clearly said the library would be shifted to the proposed integrated knowledge centre. It is only after the new facilities are built at the knowledge centre will the library be shifted. Until then, it will continue in the present location,” he added.

His intervention came in response to remarks by P. Dillibabu (CPI-M), who said the government had placed the auditorium and halls on the library campus under the purview of the Information department and demanded that these facilities be brought back under the control of the Department of Public Libraries.

He appealed to the government not to shift the ACL from Kotturpuram as a large number of students, academicians and researchers were making use of the facility.

High maintenance costs

Mr. Shanmugam said that in view of the high maintenance costs, the government was renting out the auditorium at a charge of Rs.2 lakh per day for functions and conferences.

The revenue was handed over to the library and not to any other department.

It was incorrect to say the library was not put to use as it was functioning now and would continue to do so until an alternative building came up.