At Connemara Public Library in Egmore, the staff who returned to duty on May 17 after the partial lifting of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions have a laborious task at hand — to get rid of the dust and cobwebs gathered over the books and racks in the last 50 days.
According to the librarian, M. Ganesh, the library has eight lakh books of which 10,000 are more than 100 years old; and less than 10 books are over 300 years.
“These books are considered rare. Moreover, we need to handle them with care as they are quite delicate. We are not supposed to use a vacuum cleaner. This section will alone take a week to cover. Some time before the lock-down, a pest-control drive was carried out. So that has helped. Fortunately, it is summer. Had it been winter, we would have had the menace of silverfish bug. Moreover, some of us were visiting the library even during the lock-down to check whether the books were intact,” he says.
Likewise, at Full-Time Branch Library in Thiruvottriyur the racks are getting a wet wipe. The librarian, Bancick Pandiyan, has roped in some volunteers to help the staff in cleaning the books. He was also visiting the library once in 10 days travelling all the way from Gummudipoondi for the maintenance-run of the computers. The District Library Officer, Elango Chandrasekhar, says the books are being taken care of, with the help of a skeletal staff.
‘A building design that is friendly to books’
Librarians and a handful of members have been visiting the Madras Literary Society (MLS) in Nungambakkam once a week to check if the books are intact and also to water the plants on the premises. Architect Thirupurasundari Sevvel who is also secretary of MLS says, “The heritage building of MLS is example of ‘library architecture’. That is, it has double-layer windows, lime plaster-finish and Madras terrace-roof help to preserve the books from dust and extreme climatic conditions.”