Nilgiris library and the colonial building - vestiges of colonial era in Ooty

Nilgiris library.Ooty,

Nilgiris library. Ooty, TN.

Nilgiris library. Ooty, TN tripadvisor

Nilgiris library.

A fine heritage structure on this famous hill resort of Ooty, Tamil Nadu,  the  Nilgiris library building has a  good collection of rare books  to cater to the needs of the elite in the colonial era. The site on which the Library stands once housed the Jail and Post Office!  Completed more than 160 years ago, the library is one of the oldest in India. The foundation stone of the main library was laid by A J Arbuthnot, then Chief Secretary to the Madras Presidency. A religious ceremony was conducted by Rev. Dr. G.U. Pope.  The motto of the library is Abeunt Studia in Mores meaning ‘Studies Pass into Habits’......

Nilgiris Library, Ooty, TN.

According to a book  “Ootacamund –A History” (1908) by Sir Fredrick Price, a retired ICS  officer, efforts were made way back in 1829 to have a public reading room set up here as there were many European settlers and many of them were associated with tea or coffee estates. However, a large section of European population preferred a public library to a reading room. In 1858 a committee was formed to establish a library as the government took a favorable stand and in the following year the Public Library began its operations. 

On  August 28 1867 the building came up prior to the ''take-over'' by the British Crown.  Robert Chisholm giving importance to the surrounding places, the picturesque green terrain and rolling hills  wanted to impart the building a unique look that would leave a lasting impression on the visitors. Included in his design style are  a large Gothic hall and  arched Tudor  windows, he also added decorations over the windows and  arched entrances. To make them stand apart, he painted them in white color, enhancing the beauty of red colored structure.  

The colonial  committee was able to run the library in spite of facing funds crunch every now and then. After India's independence with the mass exodus of British and others from the hill, the social scenario had changed and the library, once a hub of cultural activities, fell on hard time owing to poor funding. Decades ago there was some improvement in getting funds but soon the library that had a glorious day prior to 1947, began to feel the financial pinch. part of the reason was people preferred TV, movie and other entertainment. So the number of visitors to the library was again on the decline. 

Several years ago the library got funds from SBI and others sources to improve the library and the building that was showing signs of damages due to aging and changing climatic conditions. The library committee undertook major repair work particularly in the interior part in consultation with INTACH to preserve the heritage building for the posterity. Meticulous care was given not to damage the heritage elements. During the course of repair  work they found  in good condition many iron rings embedded all along the building. The purpose of such rings was to tie the animals, in particular horses yo them.  The Wardrobe  room in the past underwent restoration work and Rs.1 lakh was spent on it. Thanks to INTACH Nilgris  chapter for bearing part of the cost. The conservationists restored the old British styled library building without making any compromise on the quality of work  matching the old edifice. So, they used  traditional building methods as well as construction raw materials matching the old ones. The big Reading Room has  massive windows to let  in plenty of natural light. Yet another feature is in this Madras-terraced building  original wooden rafters bear the weight of the roof.


Nilgiris Library: 

Nilgiri Library, Ooty.

Nilgiris  Library,  Ooty.

Nilgiris library

Above images:  Nilgiris Library, Ooty, TN:  Home to more than 40000 books, many of them are more than 100 years old, it is one of the earliest functional  libraries in India. Equally surprising is the old polished wooden book shelves  with  mitered joints  are also more than 100 years old.  A preponderance of  old books  are not allowed to take home for reading. It began as a reading room in 1829.  Credit goes to  John Sullivan (founder of Ooty hill resort), then Collector of  Coimbatore,  who wrote to the Madras Presidency government in Madras in 1829 saying ''a subscription had been set aside for a proposed Public Reading Room in Ooty'' which is today the Nilgiris Library. When the library came into being in 1869 there were just  23 members. Countless valuable books were shifted to this library in 1864  when  the libraries of the East India Company were amalgamated upon the British Crown took direct control of the subcontinent. The library still has the old fashioned catalogue holders and tall step ladders to access the books at top. Old books galore, with quiet ambiance, it is a pretty nice place for  book worms.