The Anna Centenary Library in Chennai is wasting its resources, say users and administrators.

This library, built at a cost of Rs 172 crore, is the first in Asia to get the gold rating on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from Indian Green Building Council and is said to be South Asia’s largest.

It has technology that very few libraries in the city have; this includes an integrated management system for automated issue and return of books and issuing each user a smartcard. But, ironically, the library does not issue books to its users.

Earlier, a PIL was filed in the Madras High Court against the present AIADMK government’s proposal to convert this library into a paediatric hospital. The high court stayed the government’s decision six months ago. Since then, there seems to have been minimal activity in the library.

“Books should be issued to the public. Then only can they utilise the resources fully. We are waiting for orders from the court and the government to start that,” said Public Information Officer Karthikeyan. “We have even sent a proposal to the government on the need to fully utilise the library resources, but no action was taken.”

Arjun, who is preparing for the Civil Services exam, said, “We are allowed to carry our own books, but there is no facility to keep the books there. It is tiring to carry books to the library each day. That apart, they have more than three copies of almost all the books in the Tamil section. Even those books are not issued to users.”

A chartered accountant and another regular visitor to the library, Shivashankar, said, “They have huge halls but no literary event takes place there. Six months ago, they conducted a marriage function in the hall which is against library ethics. They also have a food court which does not provide even meals. In short, they just don’t care to run the library efficiently.”

Another official in the library said that politics was destroying such a huge depository of knowledge.

“The present government does not want to improve facilities in an institution made by the previous government. The same happened with the Secretariat and the Classical Tamil Institute. This is a deplorable political practice,” said the official on condition of anonymity.

(This article was published on February 27, 2013)
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