Featured Image Credit: Akshat Gupta, CC-BY-SA-3.0,
A fantastic six floor library that sits right at the center of a national forest right in the middle of Chennai, India – that’s what I am talking about!
The Central Library is probably the place where I spent the most time outside classes during my undergrad days at IIT Madras. Hold on – don’t judge me to be a “bookworm”! The library was also the best place to literally “chill”, and I often went there seeking shelter from the Chennai heat in one of the several large air-conditioned reading rooms, lounges or computer labs.
The library has an aesthetic design, where each floor of the building had a color scheme – Blue for Level 3, Red for Level 4, Yellow for Level 5 and so on. The basement hosts “semester-long” loan section. It is open only once a semester and hence a bit dusty. On the day it opens, students stand in long queues for several hours to get hold of textbooks that they can loan for a semester so they don’t have to purchase them. As always the early birds who come and camp hours before the section opens catch the prey. The first and second floor host short-term loan sections. Tip: Always look for books in the wrong section. You would never find books in the right section because people “hide” books in other section in hopes of retrieving it later. Although this was frustrating in the beginning, it turned out to be an interesting treasure hunt game towards the end of my stay at IIT. The computer facility on the second floor was almost always packed with folks back in the days when owning a computer was a big deal. The remaining floors of the library have huge reference sections, reading rooms, discussion rooms and lounges.
During my undergrad days, on days leading up to the exam, the library was almost always crowded with people coming together to do group study (“mugging” in IIT lingo). It was not uncommon to see folks sleeping (“crashing”) on the extremely comfortable couches in the lounges in the midst of their preparations. In fact, one had to go early to get hold of such comfy spots. Although non-technical books were few and far between, for someone who still loves reading from a physical textbook, the library had almost all the technical books, journals and references you would need during your stay at IIT. The library also occasionally hosted talks from eminent personalities and was also the only place on campus with WiFi (at least until 2009).
Although very different from a traditional community library, it provided the best environment to study, to wind down and hang out with friends, to browse the Internet for studies as well as entertainment. Overall the library is a big part of the campus culture. Knowing that I would not be able to return to this place, it left me a bit teary eyed to return my library card at the end.
All Photos Credited to: Randy Recichart CC BY-NC-ND 2.0