The massive structure coming up at Kotturpuram to house the State Library Complex named Anna Centenary Library has made avid readers in the city rather eager.

This project has also given an opportunity to look at the condition of other libraries, particularly those in the suburbs. While many readers, particularly students preparing for competitive examinations, acknowledge the facilities such as computers with internet and photocopying made available, they also point to a lot of scope of improvement.

B. Damodaran, a resident of Mehta Nagar, says: “I enjoy a better interaction with librarians now. But, the collection has not been updated according to the increasing population in an area. Cataloguing of books is poor in some libraries.”

Readers seek Indian publications in different regional languages. They say though government libraries are good for subjects in arts and humanities, they lack resources for engineering subjects.

Suburban residents often travel to libraries in the city in search of rare books.

A reader from Adambakkam says that though many localities have libraries, they are housed on small rented premises without adequate facilities.

Gopika Chandran of Ambattur says: “The local library is frequented by people to read newspapers. It must stock more publications and increase its resources in tune with readers’ preferences.”

The district library on Anna Salai and the five circle libraries in the city receive a steady stream of visitors daily, pointing to increasing patronage.

In the last three months, about 10 lakh students across the State have enrolled for membership, including 35,000 in Chennai, under the school library programme. “Even the uneducated can come to libraries and browse to learn the alphabet. We charge a lifetime membership fee of Rs.20. The timing is extended wherever patronage is high,” says Chennai District Library Officer S. Jeevarathinam.

“We cannot take up repair works in libraries functioning in rented spaces. Those run in housing board tenements have poor patronage due to lack of facilities,” she adds.

Geared up

The Department of Public Libraries, functioning under the School Education Department, seems to be taking stock of the situation. It is all geared up to revamp and interlink over 4,000 libraries across the State.

To start with, the Connemara Public Library will be digitally linked to over 30 district central libraries.

“We are identifying 210 Taluk Central Libraries. Once this is done, this network would eventually be linked to the Anna Centenary Library,” says G. Arivoli, director of Public Libraries. With nearly 80 per cent of the project completed at Kotturpuram, work on other fronts, including beautifying the interiors, is going on at a swift pace. An exclusive children section, easy access to persons with disability, an efficient surveillance mechanism and an over 1,200-seater auditorium are some of the features of the green building, he adds.

Officials are also exploring possible avenues for collaboration. “Country director of UNESCO Armoogum Parsuramen recently visited us and we discussed possibilities of sharing resources. We wrote to Abdul Waheed Khan, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO based in Paris, and he is visiting us very soon,” Mr.Arivoli says. A team also met U.S. Consul General in Chennai Andrew T. Simkin to discuss possibilities of accessing content at universities and libraries in the United States.

So far, two lakh Tamil titles have been procured for the library, in addition to a rich pool of books in other languages and digital content. After rigorous training, a team of librarians have been put on the job of cataloguing the collection. The department aims to have the library inaugurated by Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi on June 3.

Private libraries

Private libraries, which bridge the gap by providing books in English and those on engineering topics, entice their readers with packages in membership and online facility.

A. Rajan, partner of Book World, says the reading habit has increased among children. However, “the number of regular visitors has come down. ”

Sundar Ganesan, Roja Muthiah Research Library’s director, says that the library is beneficial to research students who look for south Indian history. Members could also refer to online catalogue. “A good library must provide facility to identify books that a reader needs in quick time in spite of its thriving collection.”

(With inputs from K. Lakshmi, R.Sujatha and Meera Srinivasan)

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