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Thiruvananthapuram Public Library

In his book “Military Reminiscences”, Colonel Welsh who visited Trivandrum in 1825 refers to the studies of the yound prince Swathi Thirunal. This reference will make clear that Swathi Thirunal was a friend of books.
Welsh says: “He read a chapter of Malcolm's Central India; the Governor-General's Persian letter on the capture of Rangoon; a passage in Sanskrit; another in Malayalam and seemed equally clever at each. He then took up a book of mathematics, selecting the forty-seventh proposition of Euclid, sketched the figure on a country-slate; but what astonished me most was his telling us in English that Geometry was derived from the Sanskrit which was 'Jawmeter,' to measure the earth, and that many of our mathematical terms were also derived from the same sources,such as hexagon, heptagon, octagon, decagon, dua-decagon, etc.” This is a pointer to the possibility that Swathi Thirunal had at his disposal a library which had a collection of books ranging from history and  literature to western science. No wonder that during the first year of his reign (1829) a library was established in Trivandrum.  British Resident Col. Edward Cadogan, the grandson of  Sir. Hans Sloane, the founder of the British Museum, was the President of the Library and Swathi Thirunal  was the Patron. The Library was managed by an Association known as Trivandrum Public Library Committee. Membership in those days was limited to only those persons invited to the Royal Durbar. In 1837, Swathi Thirunal granted Rs 1000/- to the Library based on a request from the Library Secretary Mr. Roberts (This is possibly Mr. J. Roberts, Master of the Free school, which later became the University College, Thiruvananthapuram).

In 1847 the Public Library Society was organized with a limited membership. In 1069 M.E the Society was registered as a Joint Stock Company and became the Public Library Association, membership being open to al persons residing in Trivandrum who conformed to the rules.  In 1889 the society entered into an agreement with Government according to which their entire assets were handed over to Government on condition that Government would erect suitable buildings for a new Library for the benefit of the public and to that end, provide a well stocked and furnished reference Library and should undertake the maintenance of the same in a suitable manner under such regulations as may be best calculated to carry out the end in view. It was alsoa greed that the Government should erect a suitable building and “establish a free library to be handed over to the public in commemoration of the sixtieth year of Queen Victoria’s reign”. Accordingly Government took over the management of the institution and it was treated as one of the minor Departments of the State. The British Resident continued to serve as the President of the Committee. From then on, the management of the institution rested with Government until 1938, when it was transferred to the Travancore University (present Kerala University).

In 1938 this institution was transferred to the control of the newly formed University of Travancore. A new committee was constituted by Government with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor as the President and the University Librarian, the Secretary. The committee had full powers to manage the affairs of the institution and to approve all expenditure. But this transfer of the institution met with resentment and protests from the public and the news-papers published a number of articles against this order. In 1948 a resolution was unanimously passed by the Legislature resolving that Government should take over the institution from the University and manage it as a separate department, as was done up to 1938. Accordingly the Government resumed the control of the institution in 1949 reconstituting the Committee with the Minister for Education as President, and the Librarian as Convener of the Committee. This Committee continues to be in a charge of the management of the Library. In 1956 the Government included this institution in the planning scheme and sanctioned about 7 lakhs of rupees for converting the Library into the State Central Library and the District Distributing Library for Trivandrum. The Convener of the Library Committee was appointed as the State Librarian, The Library had on its rolls 465 members and 512 subscribers in 1957-58. At the beginning of the year 1957-58 there were 63,959 books in the Library and 10,039 books were added during the year incurring an expenditure of Rs. 100,215.23. The average number of readers per month was 12,000. An amount of Rs. 9,369.27 was received during the period as subscription from members and affiliated libraries and as fee for the issue of date of birth certificates. The expenditure amount to Rs. 137,869.15. as per data available from Kerala Gazetteers, 1962. The Higher Education Dept. of Govt. Kerala now administers the Library, and a new building has been constructed for the library in 2003-04, following the architectural style of the present 100-year old building.


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