Tuesday, October 4, 2011

                               About the library      

"The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history". 

Carl T. Rowan 

Libraries have proved to be sources of intellectual enlightenment, excitement and exhilaration, all at the same time. Nothing embodies this perception more than Gnanalaya Library in Pudokuttai district of Tamil Nadu.

  What started as a small collection of 100 books has now grown to be an institution with more than 85,000 volumes of books in Tamil and over 8;000 volumes of books in English.

    The library covers an extensive range of literature from books, journals, and small literary magazines (sittridhazhgal). Several rare works form part of the library’s collection. Bharathiyaar’s very first anthology of poems, several issues of early Tamil literary magazines such as Kudiyarasu, Viduthalai and Swadeshi, several issues of Gandhi’s famous Harijan magazine, hand-written letters by famous personalities such as Thangammal Bharathi (Bharatiyaar’s daughter) and Rajaji are some of the most treasured items in the library.

    The speciality of this library is that it contains many first edition prints. The importance of first edition prints cannot be underestimated. Even important works by famous authors have lost several chapters in subsequent reprints in an attempt by publishers to cut costs. The consequence is that valuable information found in the original edition were lost. The best example of this is the publication of the Tamil epic “Manimegalai” by U.V.Swaminatha Aiyar. The first edition of this book contained an extensive background on Buddhist religion and philosophy that the author had painstakingly obtained from the British Library. This extensive author’s preface about Buddhist religion and philosophy were omitted in subsequent editions thereby depriving them of the opportunity to enjoy the classic better. Thus, first editions provide information that is extremely valuable for readers, especially researchers.

    Although books are not lent by the library, users are welcome to use the library as long as they want.  There is a small charge for using the library and there are facilities for scanning to CDs, photocopying and lamination for a small fee.  

    Another important aspect of this library is that the library’s founders Mr.Krishnamoorthy and his wife live next door to the library and are usually at hand to provide their valuable insights into the extensive collection.  They can not only point the user in the right direction based on their need but also provide a wealth of information about the background of most of the books and their authors’ perspective.