Egmore: Connemara Public Library has a book for curious readers

This is the largest public library in South India and one of the four depository libraries in India.

Chennai: With its archaic structure and scores of rare books that are out of print, the Connemara Public Library on Pantheon Road, Egmore, offers a treat for all curious visitors.

This is the largest public library in South India and one of the four depository libraries in India. The Connemara Public Library, named after the then Governor of Madras, Lord Connemara, is home to more than 9 lakh books, newspapers, magazines and periodicals. They receive a copy of all the books, newspapers and periodicals from all over the country.

It is a favourite haunt for readers of all the age groups. It attracts regular veteranss who come everyday and accounts for nearly 14 lakh lifetime members. It is a research hub for professionals and college students with thousand of books in each topic to refer to. It is very popular on its wide variety of collection in fine arts, architecture and history books dating to nearly hundred years.

Conceived on the lines of the British Museum Library, it was part of the Madras Museum until 1890, when the need for a free public library prompted the then Governor of Madras, Lord Connemara, to lay the foundation on March 22, 1890. It opened in 1896.

It was initially started with a small collection of 400 books on music. Over the years, it has accumulated many books on different topics from all around the world in several foreign languages. The library spread over three floors has neatly stacked books in dewey decimal order covering 35 topics which includes astronomy, engineering, physics, chemistry, economics, religion, etc.

Currently, they have more than 6 lakh books in English, followed by Tamil and Hindi. Newspapers and books are available in all Indian languages. And in foreign languages, maximum number of books were in French. Others books are in Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Jew, Chinese and many more which attracts many foreigners for its large collection.

Designed and constructed by H. Irvin, then consulting architect of Government of Madras, the old block of Connemara Library is an aesthetically pleasing sight. The semi circular oblong building in Anglo Indian Style has intricate carvings of animals on walls and roofs, teakwood shelves and stained glass colourful windows from Belgium which takes you back to the British period.

The old block is home to books that are more than 100 years old published during the British Era. The oldest Book is The Bible published in 1608, 12 volumes of Hortus Indicus Malabaricus published from 1678-1703, Grammar of high Dialect of Tamil Language by Beschi in 1882. Documents on Government Gazettes, Supreme Court orders , Parliament and Assembly debate file are also in this block in the closed section but can be borrowed for research and reference.

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