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.

Continue reading

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

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 .

Central Library-Indian Institute of Technology Madras – Chennai, Tamilnadu

Featured Image Credit: Akshat Gupta, CC-BY-SA-3.0,  

Author: Athula BalachandranIITM Trees

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.

 multistoreyviewThe 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. Continue reading

Kozhikode Public Library and Research Centre- Mananchira, Kerala

Photos  Credit: Kasuga Sho, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Author: Sivakumar Thekkenaduvath


Libraries hold a very special place in my life, particularly the Kozhikode Public Library & Research Centre in Mananchira, Kozhikode. This library is where I first started dreaming big, the place where I started seeing the unlimited potential of human life. The place where the stories of Gulliver and Khasak inspired me equally. The place where I fell in love with the writings of the prolific OV Vijayan, MT Vasudevan Nair (who is himself on the library’s governing board)  and Sachidandan. The place where I realized the meaning of my life!


The library operates in a five-story building near Mananchira lake and and was started in 1996. It  has quite a huge variety of books in all disciplines. I still remember the quote that welcomes every visitor into the library – `The more you learn, the more you know how less you know’.  It gives a feeling of unsatisfied curiosity and is very humbling.








The library was about 20 Kilometres away from my home. I must have been around 19 years old when I visited for the first time; there was a reason for my first visit. During a bus journey from Kozhikode to my village, I happened to hear a conversation between two fellow passengers – they were arguing passionately about the symbolism used in Gulliver’s Travels. I couldn’t eavesdrop to the end of their argument, as I had to get down when the bus reached my village. All  I understood was that there was more to the story than a children’s tale, perhaps a metaphor that I never noticed. The small library in my village did not have Jonathan Swift’s books -it  had only 150 books or so at that time, a big majority of which were detective stories by Kottayam Pushpanath. (I could never relate to the logic of  filling a library with detective fiction, except thinking that it was a way for the librarian to read his favorites. 🙂 )  I wanted to read more about the novel,  and for that, the Public Library was my best bet. That’s when I found out about my friend’s membership account at the library, one that he never used. I borrowed his library card  and went to visit the library.

Continue reading

Just Books Community Library Chain – Bangalore, Karnataka

Image Credit: Anjana Kurien

Author: Anjana Kurien

In a large city like Bangalore, where commuting to a centrally located library can be a pain, a lending library chain was an idea that was waiting to happen. It is this white space that is filled by the Just Books lending library chain.

The Just Books lending library chain is incubated by the N.S.Raghavan Centre for Excellence; the entrepreneur incubation and support wing of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. They have grown to an internet presence and 20 outlets across Bangalore and is slowly spreading to other cities like Madras, Trivandrum etc. The U.S.P. offered is the central collection of books that can be exchanged across the different outlets, offering the reader a wider choice than that can be contained in a small lending library.

My exposure to the Just Books chain came from the wing of the library in the clubhouse of my residential layout. The place is a veritable pulp fiction mecca,  aimed at the teenage kids, home makers and elderly in the layout; with a smattering of more serious books, including business ,popular sciences, self-help, biographies etc. and magazines. And you always have the option of browsing and ordering from  the central collection on an online portal offered by the chain. My younger son utilizes it for the Wimpy kid series and the all the current youth fiction which is a far cry from the Roald Dahls and Enid Blytons of my era. Continue reading

Anna Centenary Library – Chennai, Tamilnadu

Image Credit: Artist’s vision, Inhabitat

Author Mala Sundar

On my recent vacation in India, my sister insisted I visit a museum in Madras (aka Chennai) called “Anna Centenary Library”. 

Photo Credit: Sankar S. CC- BY-SA- 3.0

Photo Credit: Sankar S.
CC- BY-SA- 3.0

She said that a book worm like me cannot afford to miss this sight.

She was right. It is magnificent.

You enter the building feeling as if you are entering the Roman Colosseum.

Except when you enter, the first sight is this larger-than-life sized lamp, a prominent feature in many a South Indian palace and temple (and on a much smaller scale, in the some homes).

Anna Cent-2

Photo Credit: Mala Sundar

There are seven floors to the library. The first floor (or as they say in British English, the “ground floor”) has a Braille section. The next level has a large room exclusively for students to read, write, or study. The successive floors are each dedicated to specific areas or concentrations. Continue reading

By librariesilove Posted in India