Eranakulam Public Library | History

On Friday ,October 8, 1869 a meeting was held at the school building in the premises now occupied by the Maharaja’s College, Ernakulum to consider the question of establishing a Public Library and Reading Room at Ernakulum .’The meeting was well attended, the Dewan , the Judges and the principal officers of the Sarkar and a considerable number of the inhabitants being present’, says the first minutes prepared in the handwriting of Shri .A.F .Sealy, President of that meeting .The first resolution of that meeting proposed by Shri .A. Sankariah, and seconded by Shri. Krishna Rao, reads : `that a Public Library and Reading Room be established for the benefit of the community`. Thus was born ,this institution celebrating one hundred and twenty five years of glorious existence. The minutes book from which the above quotations are taking one of the prized possession of the institution, and a close study of how carefully the details were planned and executed would be a very rewarding study for anyone interested in this library.
Donations totalling Rs.1,272/-were collected from those present. The Sarkar made a contribution of Rs.1,267-The initial subscription collections come to Rs.280/-and the Sarkar contributed Rs.248/-and from out of this,Rs.2,277/- was spent for ordering books from M/s.H. Southern & Co., England, the initial purchase of books for this library .From this minutes, it can be seen that in 1065 M.E., that is 1890 A.D., the total numbers of book in the library was 1358.The book were in English, and as the number of persons conversant with English could not have been very large, this represented quite an adequate collection. From the inception, the Government of Cochin extended very generous patronage, contributing an amount equal to the amount raised as subscription and donation. The idea of a matching grant from the Government for which we have been clamoring for years, was really the practice in the early years.

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The public were then allowed free use of the library and Reading Room which again is a matter which we have been pressing the authorities in recent times. The library began with 13 first class and 25 second class subscribers. This did not increase substantially during the early years, and we even find a reduction in numbers from time to time : Again, it is recorded that Mr. Sealy had to organize Variety Entertainments and magic Lantern show to raise fund for the library. The working time of the library was from 7 A.M to 6 P.M ., which was changed in 1907 to from 7 A.M to 8 P.M. In 1920,the library boasts of a collection; of 4964 books. Among those who did most for the improvement of the library during the first 50 years of its existence, the name of Shri. T .Sankunny Menon and Shri.A.F.Sealy, are mentioned by Sri .T.K. Krishna Menon in a brief account of the first fifty years of the working of the library .The name of sri. Dias who was the Librarian is also mentioned with special appreciation. He concludes the report with the observation ‘As the premier library in the State with the accumulated experience of fifty years, may we not on this auspicious occasion, say with humility but with emphasis that, a library is a potent instrument for the spread; of education among the people, of noble living and high thinking among them and thus for making them great and good as individuals and citizens of this ancient and historic country, and so hope that, before long every village of cochin will be able to own a library”.

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