British Library – Trivandrum, Kerala

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Author:  Rajeev Soman

If I start speaking about the British Library Trivandrum, it is difficult for me to stop. This library has meant so much to me that it was heart wrenching when the news of its closure reached me in 2008 – although I was no longer in Trivandrum.

I was involved with this library, right from my primary school days in the late 1970s. My father was one of the earliest members of the library when it started in the 1960s and remained a member till they closed down. In the 1970s  the library had a children’s section as well, so  my visits started from  the time I was 7 or 8years old.

At an age when other children would be looking forward to visits to the Museum or to the movie theater for  watching cartoons (Television had not yet appeared  in Trivandrum), I would be looking forward to the visits to the library  tagging along with my father.  In those days we used to stay in Jawahar Nagar and I still remember those Friday evening trips, when my Dad would return after work and both of us would take the 5.30 PM bus which went from Jawahar Nagar to East Fort. The fare was a mere 30 paisa. We would walk to the library where I went into the children’s section and Dad  got busy browsing books on his very wide range of interests. At 6.50 PM  the bell would ring indicating ten minutes closure and that was the time for both of us to meet again.

Dad always seemed to have at least 2 or 3 of his medical students who used to meet him at the library. After  the library closed  at 7.00 PM,  they all moved to the adjacent Trivandrum Hotel, where it was “Lime juice and ghee roast” for me, while Dad and his circle continued their discussions – not necessarily literary- they seemed to be speaking on almost every topic under the sun. By 8.00 PM, it would be time to return home. Since Jawahar Nagar buses were not frequent in the evening, we often used to get down at Vellayambalam and walk the last kilometer or so – a road which had a very steep descent followed by a very steep ascent. Thus the library also  was indirectly responsible for me to getting used to walking fairly  long distances  from very early days, a habit which has persisted to this day.

As years moved on, the children’s section was closed down but by then I had developed an interest in Cricket about which the Library had a good section of books . I still remember the Dewey Decimal Classification number for Cricket .it was 796.358.

The library was also responsible for me in developing an interest in airlines and aviation including its collection of “Flight International” magazines. This eventually played a big part in my switching careers from being an Engineer to becoming an Air Transport Manager.

I used the library extensively till around 1996. Soon after that I moved to Chennai for my career and although I took a membership at the much bigger British Council Library there, it never seemed to have the charms of the Trivandrum library.

In 2002 I had the occasion to use the services of the Trivandrum library again when I attended the pre departure briefing the British Council arranged for the students leaving that year for attending UK universities. I was leaving that year to UK to do  my specialized  MSc in Air Transport, an interest which was stimulated mainly by my exposure to the books on the subject I was able to read  in the Trivandrum library. In 2004, the British Council invited me as a returning student to speak about my experiences in UK. While I was not able to attend the Trivandrum event , I attended the one at Chennai. It was a SMALL thank you from side for all the BIG things the British Library in Trivandrum had done for me.

Rekha’s Story


4 comments on “British Library – Trivandrum, Kerala

  1. A small correction if I may point out. If I am not wrong the name of the library at Trivandrum was the “British Library” and not the “British Council Library” atleast for most of the time it was in existence,. British Council Libraries were at New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta and Chennai where the British Embassy/Consulates were located. The libraries elsewhere – Pune , Trivandrum, Bangalore Hyderabad and other centres were “British Libraries” which was a joint collaboration between the “British Council” and “Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR):” I believe this change was brought about by the fact that the Indian goverment had instituted a rule that foreign government organisations (in this case British Council) could have offices only in the cities they were represented diplomatically. Thus the joint venture with ICCR was created.Due to the very same rule I believe the USIS library in Trivandrum had to close down.

    Also the childrens wing was there earlier till late 1970s and early 1980s before they closed it down before subequently restarted. I dont remember coming accross any Enid Blyton’s whie being a member of the children’s section during that period – but I do remember reading a couple of sports stories by Michael Hardcastle and assoted illustrated works of childrens fiction,. I believe Anthony Buckeridge’s “Jennings” series was also at the library. All these were later donated to the Trivandrum Public library,

    Liked by 1 person

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