Gowri S, III Year B.A. English.
The 200 year old MLS library – a cultural legacy
“We, that is, all of us, have a fantastic opportunity to turn Madras Literary Society (MLS) into a vibrant centre for creativity and learning. Think about it! We could have workshops, lectures, storytelling sessions, theatre, book readings, book launches, and so much more,” said Mr Rajith, an active member and volunteer of the MLS during a talk on ‘Issac Newton and The Principla Mathematica’ by Mr. Sidharth Chandrasekhar which was organised by the library authoritities as a part of the revival process . The library, which is more than 200 years old, housed in a 110-year-old heritage building in the DPI (Director of Public Instruction) Complex, is currently seeking volunteers who would help in the classification and restoration of books of archaic value.
Over 50,000 books of varying genres, like philosophy, art, history and literature are currently present in the library, which need to be sorted, classified and catalogued in order to make them accessible to everyone.
According to Ms. Thripurasundari Sev, a member of the library who helms this effort, “These books need immediate attention. Delaying it further would make the restoration process difficult, maybe even impossible. We are in need of volunteers who would help us to revive these books of priceless value.” The library currently has 9-10 volunteers and around 290 members and is headed by Mrs. Uma Maheshwari as the librarian-in-charge and Rear Admiral Mr. Mohan Raman as the Secretary. A restoration process has been initiated in the library meant for the older books which tend to become fragile when the acid content of the paper combines with the humidity of Chennai.
“The books are carefully dusted, after which each and every page is de-acidified and fumigated. They are then inserted into a sheath of archival quality paper which ensures that each page is well protected,” said Mr.Rajith, who mentioned that it is an internationally accepted practice. This archival process is also a reversible process and gives the books a new lease of life for another 70-80 years.
The Madras Literary Society is managed entirely out of funds earned through membership and by way of donations from well-wishers, which unfortunately is not sufficient for the initiative at hand. Finding ways to make MLS self-sustaining and raising funds is an important requirement. “This is where expanding the membership base, organizing workshops, events, and activities will help. Corporate Social Responsibility funding is also another area for us to tap,” continued Mr.Rajith.
As an attempt to develop the membership base and make the initiative more interesting, MLS has planned a series of talks and events which will be convened in the library premises. Their ‘Adopt a Book’ initiative triggers the collection and preservation of books which talk about our collective past and also highlights the library’s endeavour to enhance our understanding of the past. The MLS library is the city dwellers’ collective heritage, a legacy, and the need of the hour is to responsibly nurture and not neglect it.
[Photograph Source: Internet]