Kochi: Ernakulam Public Library, the oldest in the state, is celebrating its 150th anniversary, constructing a new complex.
Established in 1870, the library had its humble beginnings in a thatch-roofed building with just 1,358 books and just 37 members. The first books were from H. Southern and Company in England.
It now has grown into the most important information store and cultural centre of the city with close to 11,000 members and 2 lakh books.
"There is no age restriction for taking a membership. A membership was issued in the name of even a six-month-old infant," says Priya K. Peter, the librarian.
Apart from English, Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil and Sanskrit, the library also has a small collection of French and German books, most of them donated by foreigners.
In 2015, the library switched to the OPAC system, which is an online cataloguing for libraries that creates a database of all the books enabling easy access to books without the help of the staff.
The library also introduced Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) which enables members to check out and return books themselves within seconds by scanning the membership card.
It has extension centres at GCDA, High Court and Info Park and in the next phase, mobile library units on buses are coming up.
The library plays a prominent role in the cultural landscape of the city, hosting film screenings, vacation camps for children, intercollegiate debating, film appreciation courses, talks and book releases.
Almost all of the books that have been bought by the library since its inception are still available here.
Books more than 100 years old are available only for reference in the archives.
"A project to digitise the books in the archives is also in the offing," she said. The proposed five-storeyed library complex will have an area of 50,000 square feet. It will also have an auditorium, a mini theatre, art gallery and cafeteria.
The project is estimated to cost Rs 12 crore....