CHENNAI: In 1955, when K Kamaraj was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, he visited Thiruvottiyur to inaugurate a Gandhi statue in the neighbourhood. At that time, the residents of the locality put forth two pleas — Thiruvottiyur must be converted from a Panchayat to Municipality and a library must be constructed in the area.
Within three years, the Thiruvottiyur government library was inaugurated. But, the 600-square-feet space was not maintained properly. It had no patrons despite housing a collection of 15,000 diverse books. It had an average footfall of less than 30 per month.
But in 2011, the warm rays of the sun began to stream life into the library. A few like-minded people came together to form the Thiruvottiyur Branch Library Reader’s Circle. Through the Circle, the Thiruvottiyur library was upgraded into a three-storeyed space that boasts all the facilities one could wish for in a library. It now has ten sections — for newspapers and seasonal magazines, blind and differently abled, deaf and mute, digital library, browsing and photocopy, women, book issuing, children, own book reading and civil service reference.
Road to recovery
Reminiscing the journey, N Durairaj, president, Thiruvottiyur Branch Library Reader’s Circle, said, “We went to several companies asking for funds. Everyone heard our plea but did not sanction any amount. After running from pillar to post, finally former MLA K Kuppan funded `82 lakh during his tenure (2012-13) as part of the constituency improvement programme. Soon, philanthropists and companies directed their CSR funds to help us with computers, server management section, chairs, LED TV (which is used to screen sign language lessons for the deaf and mute), LED projector and extended speaker service.” The new library building was inaugurated with all the facilities in 2015. Over 100 people donated towards this makeover. The library now has 24,256 members — ranking first in the number of membership at a government library in Tamil Nadu. The place is mostly frequented by government school students and IAS aspirants. They now have over 65,000 books.
“Through the years, we began many special programmes including Tally classes for women, computer education for 10 hours, competitive examination training, and special knowledge on machinery techniques. The e-library offers a platform for job opportunities for the economically backward section. They conduct classes on personality development. Over 350 students received jobs through the e-library section alone. All the courses are offered by skilled volunteers at free of cost,” said Durairaj, adding that they offer professional coaching for TNPSC, UPSC, Staff Selection Commission and Banking.
Apart from this, they also host medical camps, book fairs, reading sessions, Science experiment classes, magic shows, e-learning, eco-friendly activities among a lot of other programmes, during weekends — all free of cost.
“I come from Thangal, located three kilometres away. During weekends, my parents encourage me to travel here so that I can learn something. They love listening to stories about the library. Also, we finish most of our school projects here. The staff members help us learn English,” said S Kushboo, a class seven student, studying at a government school nearby.
The library received awards for Highest Patrons in Tamil Nadu, Gaining Highest Materialistic Funds in Tamil Nadu, and Highest Membership in Tamil Nadu. The UN Sustainable Development Goals recognised Thiruvottiyur Library as an eligible developing centre to reach the envisioned goal through various training programmes and society improvement events.
This library helped transform the lives of many people, said K Subramanian, vice president of the Thiruvottiyur library. “There were a few women who came here for computer education as we hold exclusive classes for them. They told us that they have never stepped out of their homes before, and today, most of them are working in different places. More than 30 people who got trained here cleared government exams. It is news like this that makes us happy. Education is above everything and we are only doing our part for its betterment. Everybody must come forward towards this cause.”
The Thiruvottiyur government library is located at 947, Thiruvottiyur High Road, Chinna Mettupalayam, Kaladipet, Thiruvottiyur. For details, call: 9865850303