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A powerhouse of knowledge in Chennai

T. Ramakrishnan
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MONUMENT: A view of the fully air-conditioned Anna Centenary Library in Chennai. — Photo: M. Vedhan.
MONUMENT: A view of the fully air-conditioned Anna Centenary Library in Chennai. — Photo: M. Vedhan.

Not long ago, Kotturpuram was to become the seat of power. From Wednesday, however, it will house a treasure trove of knowledge.

The Anna Centenary Library (ACL), which will eventually have 1.2 million books in different languages, is being dedicated to the nation by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

Named after the former Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai, the Library, being built by the Public Works Department (PWD) at a cost of Rs. 180 crore over eight acres, will provide access to two lakh e-books and 20,000 e-journals.

“The Library will be a comprehensive repository of knowledge — from palm leaf manuscripts to printed materials to electronic versions of books and journals,” says Thangam Thennarasu, School Education Minister. The Oriental Manuscripts' Library, at the Madras University campus, will be annexed to the ACL, he adds.

It was in March 2007, that Finance Minister K. Anbazhagan, while presenting the State budget, announced that the government would take up the Library project. In August 2008, Mr. Karunanidhi laid the foundation stone.

Describing the Chief Minister as the guiding force behind the Library project, the School Education Minister says that right in the early stages of the project, Mr Karunanidhi made it clear that the ACL should be useful to different segments of society — the differently abled, children, senior citizens and research scholars. The requirements of these groups have been taken into account while designing and constructing the Library building.

The fully air-conditioned Library building, comprising of ground and eight floors with a plinth area of 3.75 lakh sq. ft., has two conference halls, in addition to an auditorium with a seating capacity of 1,280 persons. An amphitheatre that can accommodate over 800 is also part of the structure.

According to Director of Public Libraries G. Arivoli, four floors are now ready and they will be thrown open to the public on the day of inauguration.

The ground floor has a Braille section and an own users' section. The first floor accommodates the children's section, newspapers and periodicals, while the second floor is earmarked for Tamil books. On the second floor, there are galleries for books donated by Governor Surjit Singh Barnala, Mr Karunanidhi and the Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin.

The third floor is meant for English books and the fourth floor for books in other Indian languages. The fifth floor is for back issues of newspapers and periodicals and the sixth floor for government documents. Donors' collection and the audio and video section will come up on the seventh floor. The eighth floor will accommodate rare books, a preserving unit, a photo library and a digital library.

Mr Thennarasu says that the own users' section has been designed keeping in mind the under-privileged sections who do not have reading space in their homes. . Students of these sections can bring their books to the Library complex and read them. [Mr Arivoli points out that the Library will be open till 11 p.m.]

Another special feature of the Library, the Public Libraries Director points out, is that text books of classes of the first standard to 12th standard from all over the country will be available. West Bengal and Maharashtra authorities have already supplied their respective text books, as have the other southern States. This will be useful for teachers to make a comparative study. The Library authorities have collected books in 370 subjects arranged in alphabetical order. Their special focus is on engineering, science and technology and medicine. A team of professors visited various leading institutions and made an analysis of titles that have been used by the student community. It was on the basis of such homework that the authorities obtained 13,500 titles in medicine and 28,000 books in engineering.

Pointing out that features of the Singapore National Library have been incorporated, the School Education Minister says that the security system for the ACL has been modelled on the lines of Singapore.

N. Avudaiappan, Special Officer of the Library, says that creating information technology infrastructure and deploying advanced Library Management Systems will cost Rs. 20 crore and the contract has been awarded to a private firm.

Mr Arivoli and the Special Officer say that networking of the Connemara Public Library with 31 district central libraries is underway. All these libraries will, in turn, be linked with the ACL. The Public Libraries Director also adds that 195 staff will man the ACL, of whom 105 will be librarians. The full complement will be in place in a few months. On appointment, they will undergo a special training programme.

WDL partner

One of the Library's special features is that it has become a partner of the World Digital Library (WDL), says Mr Thennarasu.

The WDL, which makes significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, is an outcome of the initiative taken by the United States Library of Congress and UNESCO.

The School Education Minister says that the ACL is only the second in the country to become a partner of the WDL, the other being the Allama Iqbal Library, University of Kashmir. A food court, offering a range of food and beverage options including Oriental, North Indian, South Indian and Italian, is another component of the complex.

The Anna Centenary Library, which will have enormous materials for youth and the student community, promises to emerge as a lasting monument of the present government.

The Library has two conference halls, an auditorium and an amphitheatre


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