British Library books cry for attention

The prestigious British Library collection at the State Central Library is in danger of being relegated to a corner.

The British Library had donated the collection to the government when it closed down operations in the city over a decade ago. The State Central Library took over the books in 2010, and now the 25,000-odd books are housed separately on the first floor of the State Central Library.

There were plans to shift the collection, which includes books on science, literature, history, technology, and law, to the new heritage-model building on the premises, especially in the wake of the British High Commissioner’s visit to the library last year. The High Commissioner had handed over nearly 1,000 books for the collection in the presence of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The new building would have allowed the old and the new books to be displayed prominently. Moreover, the British Council had expressed keen interest in associating with the State Central Library to conduct discussions, story-telling sessions, and book readings in the new structure owing to facilities such as an air-conditioned hall. The building has new furniture and facilities for people to sit and read.

Pillar collapse

Following the collapse of a pillar, the Public Works Department too had advised shifting the British Library collection from the present location on the first floor of the building. The vast reference section, also on the first floor in an extension to the main structure, suffers from no such issues, being located in a more recent structure.

Along with the British Library collection, shifting the Malayalam and English fiction sections too was on the cards. However, a meeting of the library advisory committee sometime ago decided to shift the British Library collection to the space occupied by the Malayalam collection on the ground floor at present, and shift the Malayalam collection to the new building.

There is apprehension that shifting the British Library collection to the ground floor instead of the new building may prevent it from being advantageously displayed.

Raises concern

Former Director of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board Oommen V. Oommen has raised this concern in his letter to the Chief Minister and the Higher Education Minister. In the letter, he has requested that the collection be displayed prominently in the new building, along with Malayalam books. He said he had reservations about the space where the collection was now proposed to be moved to.

Former Chief Secretary C.P. Nair who was the head of the advisory committee of the library said the collection was invaluable as many of the books were out of print. Moreover, it had been gifted to the government and no money had been asked as compensation.

“Those books should be given the attention due to them.” He also stressed the need to identify space for prominent display of Malayalam books.

Retired physician K. Rajamohanan, a long-time member of the library, said the British Library collection attracted serious and committed readers and shifting it to the proposed space inside the library may not help maintain its identity. The space was not ideal and its current condition unsatisfactory, he said.

Library advisory committee member and State Institute of Languages Director V. Karthikeyan Nair said he was confident that the British Library collection would fit into the space where the Malayalam books were currently housed, and even leave space for readers to sit and read.

N. Gopakumaran Nair, head of the Department of History, University College, and a regular at the library feels that the space where the Malayalam books were displayed was hardly suitable to house the British Library collection. “The ambience should be improved with interior decoration, so that it not only becomes a space where books are kept but also one which encourages people to come, browse at leisure, and sit and read.”

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 3:06:22 PM |

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