Tamil Nadu

When the first mobile library hit the road in Melavasal

The cart, in the shape of a small stall, would visit nearby villages, especially in the Tamil months of ‘Chithirai’ and ‘Aippasi’  

A bullock cart laden with books at Melavasal, a village near Mannargudi, on October 21, 1931 evoked the curiosity of people. It was perhaps the first mobile library in India.

The brainchild of Rao Bahadur S.V. Kanagasabai Pillai, a Mannargudi-based engineer, the library was inaugurated by S.R. Ranganathan, the father of Indian Library Science. Ninety years have passed since the mobile library started its journey.

Book expo

“Kanagasabai Pillai was one of the engineers who had worked for the construction of the Mettur dam. He launched the library to inculcate the reading habit in people,” said R. Kamaraj, head of the department, Folk Studies, Tamil University, Thanjavur.

A book exhibition was organised for a week at Mannargudi to mark the start of the mobile library. Mr. Kamaraj said the mobile library carried books printed in bold letters and dealt with beekeeping and other cottage industries aimed at providing vocational training to farmers.

“The cart, in the shape of a small stall, would visit nearby villages, especially in the Tamil months of ‘Chithirai’ and ‘Aippasi’ when there would not be much farming activities. A replica of the cart, now at Tamil University, reminds visitors about the idea of non-formal education conceived 90 years ago,” he said, underscoring the need to improve the branch library situated at Melavasal.

T. Selvakumar, a librarian of Mannargudi, said Kanagasabai Pillai was the founder of the Theosophical Society in the town, and it was named Samarasa Sanmarkka Sangam in Tamil, instead of Brahmagnana Sabhai.

The Society had also run classes for those who could not go to school.

“As willed by Kanagasabai Pillai, a public library is functioning from a part of the land which once housed the Theosophical Society. Kanagasabai Pillai also started Kowmara Gurukulam for vocational training,” Mr. Selvakumar said.

The mobile library worked for a few years even after the death of Kanagasabai Pillai.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 11:48:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/when-the-first-mobile-library-hit-the-road-in-melavasal/article37118388.ece

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