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The Genesis And Growth of Connemara Public Library

It is a known fact that Chennai city has a well-defined place when talking about landmark buildings, which have gone down the annals of history. Connemara library, certainly a pride of Madras is not only haven for book lovers and research Scholars, the building by its sheer architectural beauty and marvel acquires a special significance as part of the history of Madras City.

Bobby Robert Bourke Connemara is actually the man behind this historical and landmark building of Chennai, The Connemara Public Library. Being a man of letters he understood the urgent need of a good public library for the citizens of Madras. He converted his idea into action by laying the foundation of the library on the 22nd of March 1890.


1.1 Lord Connemara speaks

"Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to say that it has been for a long time, the wish of my colleagues and myself to see a free public library established in Madras; we have recognized it for a long time as one of the most urgent wants of the educated people of this Presidency Town. In all populous places a free public library is a very great boon, and I am quite sure that where a great number of students and educated natives of India have not got the means of providing themselves with the books that one needed for their study, in their business, a want of this kind is very deeply felt. I trust that this want will be supplied by the free public library of the building of which I am now going to lay the foundation stone.

I heard it very often said that one of the reasons why our students who have distinguished themselves in minor degrees and in minor stations of life, literature, arts an science, do not come to attain the higher degree of the Master of Arts and other degrees of that character, is that they cannot afford to buy the books to enable them to complete their study. I hope, therefore, that in this library those books will be found and also books of various kinds which shall enable them to study in their higher branches of literature and science. But beyond all this, I hope that there will be a free public library and that young man and old men, possibly ladies, may come here and enjoy the pleasure of literature and reading for its own sake".

The objectives of the library was thus outlined by Lord Connemara – the then Governor of Madras during 1886-1890 –– while laying the foundation stone for the Connemara Public Library on 22nd March, 1890.

1.2 Name

Though the library was constructed on the scheduled time and was dedicated to the Public on 14-4-1896, it was only on 5-12-1896 the library was formally inaugurated and was opened to the general Public by the then Madras Governor Sir Arthur Eli bunk Haw lock, naming the library “Connemara” as a mark of respect for the great man whose desire had been fulfilled. From the date of its inauguration to this day Connemara Library continues to enjoy a special reputation among the people of Chennai.


2.1 Original Structure

While Connemara Library caters to the needs of all kinds of book lovers the mammoth construction also deserves a very special attention. The stately building is built in Indo – Saracenic style and it is very rare to come across a building of this type in the present day context. Hundred years after its construction the buildings still continues to evoke awe and respect in us when we just look at the marvelous construction

Designed by H. Irvin, the then consulting Architect to the Government of Madras, the Connemara Public Library was constructed as a semi-circle end oblong building. le. It is a magnificent hall with a splendid reading room and beautiful teakwood book shelves. Its ceiling is pretty to look at. The roof is truncated semi-circle. The truncated top has a wooden ceiling. But the two curved sides are made of colored glass pieces artistically cemented to one another. Ornamental acanthus leaves and flowers adorn the pillars, windows and bookshelves. The flooring is done with marble slabs brought from Krishna District (Andhra Pradesh) through the Buckingham canal, in boats.

Its huge semi circular entrance, the beauty and elegance of the reading rooms, Book racks made out of the costliest teak wood attract the attention of all the irrespective of their background. . The cost of the construction in those days was whopping amount of Rs.5,75,000.

In order to cope with the expected inflow of books and increasing visitors who would visit in consequence of the new Madras Public Libraries Act of 1948, a mezzanine teakwood flooring was added in 1952 at a cost of Rs.1,30,000 for accommodating readers. The ground floor thus released was provided with steel racks at a cost of Rs.30,000 to accommodate books.

So in this way having about 20,080 feet of shelving space and about 27,000 sq.ft of floor space, it accommodates about 2,50,000 volumes on its shelves ..

2.2 Additional Buildings

To cope up with the increasing stock, a three-storied building with 71,700 sq.ft. was constructed in 1973.

The T shaped three storied building constructed at an estimated cost of Rs. 12.7 lakhs occupies 1,424 square meter (15,326 Sq.ft.) of plinth area. The total floor area is 4,158 sq.metres (44,763 sq.ft.).While the actual carpet area is 3,738 sq.metres (40,233 sq.ft.)

Further to accommodate the increased stock of books another three-storied building with 21,823 sq.ft. was added in 1999.


3.1 An adjunct

The library was opened for the public from 14th April 1896 through the formal opening ceremony by the Governor Sir Arthur Elibank Havelock took place only on 5th December 1896 as an adjunct to the Government Museum under the control of the Superintendent of the Government Museum.

3.2 Tenants

3.21 Invitation

Lord Connemara extended an invitation during his speech on 23rd March 1890 to the libraries controlled by different bodies to occupy some space in the portion of the proposed library to help the public as well as the libraries which were in need of some space. This was utilized by more than one institution.

3.22 Madras Literary Society Library

In that way the Madras Literary Society Library was the first to function in the Southern half of the long hall inside the Library until it was shifted to its present buildings in the College road in Nungambakkam in 1905.

3.23 Madras University Library

The Madras University Library occupied the space vacated by the Madras literary Society Library and functioned there until 1928 when it moved into the new buildings of the University at Chepauk.

3.3 Full time Librarian

However with the increasing use and work of the library, a full time post of librarian came into existence on 9th September 1929 with Sri R. Janardhanam Naidu as the first full time Librarian. The Connemara Public Library was thus, for the first time in its history, free to develop under the guidance of a full time librarian. The library staff was entirely separated from the Museum staff in 1930 so as to admit of the Librarian taking full control of it.

3.4 Independent Institution

With effect from April 1, 1939, the library became as an independent institution presided over by the Librarian himself under the direct control of the Directorate of Public Libraries.

3.5 State Central Library

3.5 State Central Library


  • 1890 - Foundation Stone Laid
  • 1896 - Inauguration of the Library
  • 1929 - First Full Fledged Librarian Appointed
  • 1930 - Lending Service, Open Access and Home Delivery Services Introduced
  • 1948 - Declared as State-Central Library Under the Tamil Nadu Public Libraries Act, 1948
  • 1954 - Declared as National Depository Centre Under the Delivery of Books and Newspaper (Public Libraries) Act, 1954
  • 1955 - United Nations Depository Centre
  • 1963 - Publication of Tamil Nadu State Bibliography of Children's Literature
  • 1964 - Publications of Tamil Nadu State Bibliography of Tamil Books
  • 1965 - UNESCO Information Centre
  • 1966 - Institute of Library Science Inaugurated
  • 1973 - Three – Storied New Building Added
  • 1985 - Xerox Facilities Introduced
  • 1989 - Educational Video Service Introduced
  • 1991 - Computer Unit Installed
  • 1992 - Declared as Asian Development Bank Information Centre
  • 1994 - Donation of Rs. 1 Lakh from Indian Bank and Rs. 2 Lakhs from Tamil Nadu Text Book Corporation Civil Services Study Circle opened
  • 1995 - Braille & Talking Book Section opened
  • 1996 - Centenary Celebration of the Library
  • 1997 - Donation of Rs. 5 Lakhs from Thiru. M.A.M. Ramasamy, Leading Industrialist
  • 1998 - 14 Computers added as a Part of Computerization of Library Activities-Commemorative Stamp Released
  • 1999 - Three-Storied Centenary Building Added
  • 2000 - Microfilm Unit added
  • 2001 - Readers Forum started
  • 2003 - Membership Bar Code Introduced- Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) Installed
  • 2004 - Permanent Book Fair Inaugurated
  • 2005 - Awarded as the Best State - Central Library in India Internet Browsing Centre Opened -Books Bar code Introduced -Separate CD Rom Section Opened
  • 2006 - Vacuum Fumigation Chamber Installed - Two Book Scanners added - Preservation of rare books in CD form - 100 years Old Library Building Renovated
  • 2007 - Stack Room Air Conditioned.
  • 2008 - Digital Library Opened - 2 Color News Paper Scanners and 1 Color Printer added - 2nd floor - Language section Air conditioned
  • 2009 - 3rd floor – Text Book Section Air Conditioned
  • 2010 - CCTV installed
  • 2011 - Web OPAC Introduced Switched Over to Open Source Software KOHA 1st floor – Periodical Section Air Conditioned
  • 2016 - Ebooks Section opened.

The Expenditure for maintaining the library is met by the Government of Tamil Nadu. However 50% of the recurring expenditure and 2/3 of the non-recurring expenditure in respect of maintaining the Delivery of books Act section of this library is met by the Government of India.


5.1 Stock

The stock of volumes stood at 8,21,784. At present it receives 3500 periodicals and 160 newspapers.

5.2 Dhanakoti Collection

Rao Bahadur Arcot Dhanakoti Mudaliar made a donation of Rs.20,000 to the Victoria Memorial for the purchase of Art books and these books were housed in the Connemara Public Library.

5.3 Materials received under the Madras Public Library Act

When it was made the state Central Library under the Madras Public Libraries Act, it began to receive four copies of publications published in the State and delivered to the Registrar of Books under the Press and Registration Act of 1867 as amended by the Madras Public Libraries Act. This increased the stock of Library to some extent.

5.4 Materials received under the Delivery of Books Act

With the declaration of making the Connemara Public Library as one of the Four libraries to receive all the books and other materials published in India with effect from September 10, 1955, the additions of the library grow very fast creating the problem of space to accommodate the materials.

5.5 Materials from U.N.O and Asian Development Bank

Apart from this, a good number of publications and periodicals of the U.N. Organisation, its specialized agencies and Asian Development Bank were received.

5.6 Donated books

In addition to these collections, the library is able to get a good number of books by way of donations from individuals, institutions and Governments.

5.7 Purchased books

Apart from these materials got gratis, a good number of books are added every year by purchasing from the funds available by the Government..

5.8 Rare books

This library has got more than One Lakh of rare books and Periodicals. Some of them are:-

Serial number Year of Publications Author Title
1 1553 D. Hieronymi Strido Omnes Quae Extant
2 1578 Plato Opera Quae Exlast Ominia (Greek Latin)
3 1604 Gruler (Jan) Fax Artium Liberalium (Latin)
4 1608 The Bible
5 1678 Rheed, etc. Hortus Indicus Malabaricus 12 volumes
6 1696 Ovington (J) A Voyage to Suratt in the year 1689
7 1698 Refulatio Alcorani
8 1781 Gnana Muramagazin Vilakkam (Tamil)
9 1826 Leyden (John); Erskins (William) Trs Memoirs of Zahir–Ed-Din Muhammad Baber…
10 1858 Tripe (L) Photographic views in Madura
11 1882 Beschi (C J) Grammar of the High Dialect of the Tamil Language.

6.1 Reference Section

We have a strong reference section frequented by students, research scholars and the public throughout the library working hours. The reference section is a separate entity and holds about 5000 precious reference tools such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, yearbooks, directories, almanacs, atlases, gazetteers, etc. along with reference works in various subject fields. People also use this section for obtaining general information about specific needs.

6.2 Periodicals Section

Periodicals section is functioning at the first floor of the Library. It is the source of current and the latest published information which is very useful in research work. It accommodates More than 3000 Journals and 100 news papers in English and all Indian languages.

6.3 Language Section

Connemara Public Library is entitled to receive a copy of each publication published in India at free of cost under the provisions of the Delivery of Books and Newspapers Act,1954. Since 1954 the library started receiving publication and other reading materials in all Indian languages from all over India. These Language books are maintained in separate sections.

6.4 Text book Section

The Connemara Public Library dedicated to contribute to the teaching and learning activities at the Universities and colleges of Chennai city by making available books, textbooks assigned in both undergraduate and graduate-level courses. In addition, as a response to the increase in the cost of textbooks, library have developed a program to purchase additional copies of high-cost textbooks for large undergraduate students.

6.5 Civil service study circle

Civil Services Study Circle has come a long way from its inception in 1994. The Study Circle was established to provide assistance to the aspirants of Civil Services from the educationally and economically backward minority communities and from other weaker sections of the society who could not afford to pay the exorbitant fees charged by coaching institutes.

6.6 Preservation section

The Conservation Division ensures continued access to the Library's 100000 rare and fragile special collections by providing assessments, surveys, reviews, collections stabilization and housing, and treatments for research, exhibits, digitization, loans, collection moves, and other storage improvements

6.7 Internet Service

The Connemara Public Library offers public internet access to the members on about 15 computers installed. All stations allow access to the Library catalog, databases and web site.Most stations allow general internet access, the use of office applications for word processing, spreadsheets, databases, etc. Not all internet sites may be accessible from all stations due to technical and other issues.

6.8 Bibliographic Services

Bibliographic Services is one of the technical divisions of Connemara Public library. Research scholars, Government agencies, universities and national level institutions may make use of this facility. Selected lists of reading materials or bibliographies are prepared by the library on request.

6.9 Reprographic Services

Photocopy machines are available to provide researchers with the copies of rare material and preservation. Members may use reprographic facilities against payment. The photocopies, microfilms and microfilms printout / photocopy will be provided within the limits of the International Copyrights Act.

6.10 Lending Service

The Circulation Section is the backbone of the Library. Thousands of members from Chennai city come here every day for enlightenment. It can be said that this section has a unique role for providing the latest information to readers. Furthermore, Circulation Section has introduced computerized system for proper record keeping. Now that computer facility is available, hence it is easy to send defaulter lists/miscellaneous correspondence well in time which providentially will improve in the long run. Moreover from the year 2003 library has started circulation transactions like check-in and check-out of the books on bar-coded cards. This has made the issuance procedure efficient.

6.11 Web OPAC

Library is providing round-the-clock Web OPAC/OPAC facility to the public through KOHA library software..

6.12 Digital Resources

The collection comprises more than 5,876 e-books 300 CD-ROMs for adults and children. Subjects range from Tamil Literature, Linguistics, History, Computer Science, Electronics and Electrical engineering, Mechanical engineering, Mathematics, Science and humanities. Special attention is paid to the collections on Tamil Nadu. In addition, a unique collection of useful standalone online journals and e-books free on the internet are made available to the users in our campus


Thirty one Staff (against the sanctioned strength of 112 Staff) on 31-08-2016


Connemara Public Library serves the public daily from 9.00A.M. to 7.30P.M. on weekdays and from 9.30A.M. to 6.00P.M. on Sundays with out any break. The library is closed on three National holidays and selected festival holidays a year. i.e. Pongal, Tamil New Year, Pooja Holidays, Deepavali and Christmas


The increasing intellectual awareness among the people make them to move towards the social institution like library.

9.1 Visitors

Any person above 17 years is eligible to use the free public library service. Accordingly 5,18,647 readers have utilized the facilities during 2015-16

9.2 Members

Membership is open to any resident of Chennai and its vicinity who is 17 years of age and above. Every member can borrow maximum of six books for a period of fourteen days by depositing Rs. 300/- An annual subscription of Rs.50/- per member is collected every financial year. At present this Library had 1,37,549 members on roll.

9.3 Loan of Books

2,83,654 volumes have been lent out to members for home reading during 2015-16


The last decade of the 20th Century i.e. in the early 1990's Connemara public library started the path of computerization with a single PC/XT running on dbase software. However it was in 1998 that a giant leap was taken with the purchase of two servers and twelve nodes with a budget of Rs. 8/- lakhs. These computers were put in good use by the highly efficient staff who helped to input an amazing 3.5 lakhs records.

In April 2003, the budget increased to 18 lakhs and two more servers with six nodes with latest configuration were acquired reflecting one more step towards total computerization.

The next important event is started in June 2003 with the introduction of OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue). Also a Web Site for library information is added as a part of total computerization.


Scanning services introduced in the year 2006 by which rare and old documents are scanned and preserved for posterity.


A well established Reader's Forum is functioning in the library. The Forum is in charge of providing Xerox facilities to the readers. Apart from this the Forum organizes literary meetings and book releasing functions in the library for the benefit of the readers.

Web address : www.connemarapubliclibrarychennai.com

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