Leprosy Sanatorium Library- Nooranad, Kerala

All Photos of the library by: Gokulraj R.

Author: Gokulraj R.

This may sound like it  is coming straight from the pages of fiction. Pardon me; that’s the side effect of reading too much literature.

Here’s the story of my book house.

About 60 years ago,  the Government of Kerala , India, constructed a 2-storyed building to collect and maintain books for patients suffering from leprosy.  The library was within the isolated 200 acre leprosy sanatorium campus in Nooranad. The enlighted and sympathetic members of society donated from their collections of literature to the sanatorium.The communist Govt. of Kerala  had tie ups with what was then Soviet Russia, and  this helped to import a huge collection of Russian literature, free of cost. Books also came from other parts of the world. Thus, books  provided the inmates of the sanatorium with a way to bury their anguish, something to help forget the pain of their existence.

Gradually,  the world outside too began to show interest in the pile of books amassed in the building (there were no televisions and few cinemas at that time in Nooranad). The doctors and other officials supported the trend. and spread  awareness about the disease. The visitors were given assurances that with reasonable precautions, they would not be turned into limbless zombies. The process of organising and categorising books that was on a sluggish pace  because the inmates were toiling with their bug-eaten fingers and limbs, caught wind as the public intervened. The end result was that they managed to develop that pile of books into a well structured library.

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By librariesilove Posted in India

Ambalamedu School Library – Ambalamedu, Kochi, Kerala

Photo Credit: By Shajahanea – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8130923

Author: : Lakshmi Nair


Lakshmi Nair

Lakshmi Nair lives in New Zealand with her husband and son and works for Auckland Council as a Civil Engineering Project Manager. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and reading.


It was the morning of 1st June 1970. I stood amongst other five year olds, eagerly watching the inauguration of the new school in the brand-new township of Ambalamedu. The school was built to cater to the children of the employees of  the Cochin Division of  Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd. (FACT), who mostly lived within the secluded but beautiful surroundings of the township. As a 1st standard student, I was lucky to be one of the foundation students of that school, but was luckier that the school also had a library.  Every week, for the next 10 years, I used to take two books (one written in Malayalam and the other in English) home to read and be my windows to the outside world.

The library itself was located in one of the larger rooms of the school and the books were stored in large steel cupboards with glass doors. Apart from fiction and non-fiction books for children, the library had a huge subscription of children’s magazines and weeklies like Eureka, Chandamama, Balarama etc. I was a fiction reader and soon became an avid follower of Enid Blyton, Alfred Hitchcock, James Hadley Chase, Nancy Drew, Biggles and the like. Malayalam books from the library included Mali’s (who is my mother’s uncle) hilarious stories and ‘puranas’ and occasional horror novels. The portrayal of this library will be incomplete without the mention of its long-term librarian, Eliyamma teacher. Continue reading

Loyola High School Library – Pune, Maharashtra

Photo Credit: Ankith Nair

Author: Ankith Nair

Loyola High School and Junior College, is a Jesuit school situated in Pashan, Pune, India. It was founded in 1961. 

Credit: Ankith Nair

Credit: Ankith Nair

This school’s library was the first one that I ever visited. I was a regular  at  the library, right from my primary school days. I still remember those days when we used to have our library period every Wednesday and Friday; it used to be a one hour period. On our first day we were given strict instructions of how library books should be handled, how the pages should be flipped and most importantly the silence that we had to maintain in the library. I also recall that we used to have a blue color library card, which was very important as we couldn’t be issued a book without that card.

 I owe my hobby of reading to this library. It initially started with books like Hardy Boys, Famous Five, Matilda to the Harry Potter series and then moved to much more. Most of my lunch breaks too were spent in the library as the two hours of the week given to us by the school, were never enough! I was the library monitor of my class and it used to be my responsibility to collect the books issued to my classmates on every Wednesday. Continue reading

The School Library at Bhavan’s Vidya Mandir – Elamakkara, Kochi, Kerala

Photo secured by the author, Partha Sarathy

Author: Partha Sarathy

US based senior management professional, Partha Sarathy was initiated to the world of books through his  school library. Having set a school record in the number of library books borrowed, Partha says he owes a lot to the wide range of reading he was able to do in his school years.This gratitude was also a reason he readily agreed to share his experiences with the Libraries of our Lives project when the team approached him.

I’ve always been fascinated by libraries. I think a library brings together the best works of the best minds in human history, their immortal voices undimmed by the passage of time. While l revere all libraries, there is one that has a special place in my mind. It’s the library at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Vidya Mandir school in Elamakkara in Kochi, Kerala, where I studied in the 1970s and 1980s.

 Our school was in those days one of the best in Kochi, and probably one of the best in Kerala. The school library was very good as well. We had a large collection of books and magazines, neatly arranged in shelves that stretched from one end of a large hall to the other. In my juvenile imagination, the library hall was so massive that one couldn’t see from one end to the other. Law and order was enforced by the gentle, soft-spoken, kind-hearted librarian Mrs. Maya Nambiar, supported by a rather ferocious assistant whose name I don’t recall now. The duo somehow maintained peace even when the hallowed portals of the library were invaded by mobs of unruly kids.

Vintage Enid Blyton Books Credit: peonyandthistle CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Vintage Enid Blyton Books
Credit: peonyandthistle                 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 When I was in 5th and 6th, my favorite author was Enid Blyton. I think I read almost every one of her books. We had Noddy for young kids; the Secret Seven series; the Famous Five series for older kids; and a lot of girls’ books. I was careful not to be seen reading those in public. Years later I discovered that American libraries don’t carry Enid Blyton’s books because they are considered racist. It never occurred to me when I was in school.

 We had a lot of abridged and illustrated classics by the popular authors, including Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Alexander Dumas, and Robert L. Stevenson. These books were thin, had large font, contained nice pictures, and were a delight to read. I don’t think we had too many Indian authors, but I do recall R.K. Narayan’s books. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s mission was to preserve India’s literary and cultural heritage, so we had books by Gandhi, Nehru, Vivekananda, and other assorted swamis and gurus. We also had a reference section with Encyclopedia Britannica and many other big books. Continue reading

Ampthill Library – Ampthill, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom

Photo: View from Ampthill Park, Bedfordshire

Credit: © Copyright pam fray and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.(CC BY- SA  2.0)

Author: Andy Foster

An avid traveler with interests as varied as quizzing and soccer, it is not surprising that Andy Foster is also a lover of libraries. Andy worked at British Aerospace for some years, before deciding that his abilities could  be put to  better use as a teacher. This decision turned out to be a blessing for many hundreds of his students at Cranfield University’s Department of Air Transport who benefit not just from his passion for aviation and his accessibility, but also from his eagerness to help students stay connected to each other and to their alma mater.


Ampthill Library Photo Credit: Andy Foster

Ampthill Library
Photo Credit: Andy Foster

I used libraries when I was a youngster growing up in Fleet, Hampshire, and then Bedford, Bedfordshire. I hope others will post about those libraries but if not I will later.   But this one is the  Ampthill library, which is in the town where I live. Ampthill library is described as “A community lending library with a collection of fiction and non-fiction books for children, teenagers and adults, DVDs and audiobooks for borrowing as well as free computer use” (Culture 24 website)
My family has made extensive use of the library. When the children were young we would take them to toddler mornings so that they could enjoy stories and playing with other children. As they got older and their ability to choose their own books increased, they would walk to the the library and find what they wanted to read. During the summer holidays the local council run libraries hold a reading challenge which encourages children to read more. Some of the other activities for children are: Continue reading

Stockholms Stadsbiblioteket – Stockholm, Sweden

Photo Credit: Rupert Ganzer  (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Author: Suman S.

Suman is a freelance writer/editor in the Technical documentation field with over a decade of experience.  Suman is our dream reader. She chanced on our project online, and as a true library lover, shared this write up and photographs with us, as her response to the project. May her tribe increase!

I specialized in library, documentation and information science for both undergraduate and post graduate studies. I worked in a higher education library for a year, as an intern. But then, I left the field, disillusioned by the unethical ways in getting placed into the profession in those days. There was this top-notch institute, some bad student-faculty relations and everything going wrong. I moved on – in life, from Bangalore to Mumbai (Bombay, then), and from librarianship to technical documentation. That was in the beginning of the new millennium.


Photo Credit: Suman S.

Almost 12-13 years later, I found the love for my subject again. And, it was in Stockholm, the beautiful capital city of Sweden. With its amazing and near-perfect public library network and excellent professionalism, the Stockholm Stad (city) libraries and the librarians there won me back. And ever since, Stockholms Stadsbiblioteket (The Stockholm Public Library) has been my favorite, though I love all the public libraries and the children’s libraries that I visited in Stockholm. I guess, as Stockholm continues to bring back some of my best memories in the last two decades, the public library will always have its special place. Continue reading

Qaumee Kuthubukhaanaa – The National Library of The Maldives

Photo Credit: RUSHDI’SNAPS


Author: Rajeev Soman

Photo Credit: OCHA

Photo Credit: OCHA

This is the national library of the Maldives located in the capital city Male’. Efficiently run, the library has a good collection of books in English, both in the lending section and the reference section. The books available to borrow include both fiction and non fiction. Fee is nominal and upto 3 Books can be taken out for 21 days.

The atmosphere resembles the reference section of the British Library in Trivandrum. Everything is well maintained and computerized. The library has an excellent collection of guidebooks not just about Maldives but of places all over the world, including some very old editions which for a travel buff like me was very useful.

One thing I really appreciate about the library is that the library accepts book donations from the public as long as the items are relevant to the library’s development policy. This is actually a very positive thing in my opinion especially in a country like Maldives  where a lot of expatriates work. Many book lovers would hate to discard their  well loved books at the time of leaving the country yet  would otherwise be forced to do so because of airline baggage regulations that  are more stringent by the day . These book donations are maintained very well with an acknowledgment stamped on the book giving details about the donor. A very welcome initiative, in my opinion. Continue reading

British Library – Trivandrum, Kerala

Photo Credit: Jocalling.blogspot.com

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. Continue reading

Quilon Public Library and Research Centre – Kollam, Kerala

 Photo Credit:  Google Images, shared by Sujai G Pillai

Author: Sujai G. Pillai

My passion for libraries started from the time I spent in my school  and village libraries with my friend Tijay. I felt a sense of  community and togetherness in our village library even though it had only few books. During festivals, (Onam and  Xmas) we used to arrange cultural events and  sports meets at the library.

Kollam, Kerala, S. India

Kollam, Kerala, S. India

It was during my college days that I encountered  and was impressed by the Kollam Public Library ( a.k.a. The Quilon public library & research center) . It is nearly 30 KM  away from my home, situated in the middle of Kollam town, near the railway station. The wood paneled interior, the hardwood staircase of teak and the antique furniture lend a majestic feel to the library – I felt like I was in a big palace. I loved the dusty smell of old books.  Reading those books was like talking to some great ancestors who were happy to see me. I spent a lot of time in this favourite “museum” of mine, among the reference books and journals.

This Library  has  a huge collection of books but a majority  of the readers utilize it for career  search, orientation and development. So one would, at anytime, find lots of  young people preparing for  the civil service examinations ( such as Indian Administrative Service) , for bank tests  and staff selection examinations.
Senior citizens too patronize the library and enjoy the communal spaces inside and outside. where people  gather to read and discuss. A separate children’s wing attracts young readers. 
Literary events for the public are held in the  auditorium and in the smaller halls attached to the library.  As a bow to digital  times, the Kollam Library provides access to the internet via a single terminal  for Rs. 15/ hour, and allows users to take print outs.

I don’t use the library any more, since I moved out of Kollam.

Note from Libraries of Our Lives : Sujai is the driving force behind the One Library Per Village (OPLV) Project (https://www.facebook.com/olpv.org) and the trendy #BookBucketChallenge .

Arendal Bibliotek – Arendal, Aust-Agder, Norway

Photo Credit: Cecilie Stuyvenberg

Author: Cecilie Stuyvenberg

ArendalmapArendal is a coastal town in the Aust-Agder county of the  Sørlandet region in Norway.  It is a town with a long history of sea faring/shipping due to its close proximity to the ocean. The population of Arendal is around 42,000.

The public library of Arendal is centrally situated on the main square of the town.  The new library was opened in 1998 and ‘the ship’ is the central aesthetic idea of the architect. The interior is modern, open and light and the exterior is designed in the same style as the surrounding buildings. The building houses a number of art pieces on display.

Arendal Interior 3ArendalInterior6

ArendalInter1Arendal Interior 5 Continue reading