Colonial Legacy of a Library

Apr 01, 2014 | Vol 6, Issue 2
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The small library cum reading room with a name plate “King Edward Memorial Library Reading Room and Recreation Club”, situated in the heart of Malappuram town (Kerala, India), is a colonial heritage from British rule. Even with its limited facilities, the reading room and the library are utilised by many, making it a valuable part of heritage.

The small library cum reading room with a name plate “King Edward Memorial Library Reading Room and Recreation Club”, situated in the heart of Malappuram town (Kerala, India), is a colonial heritage from British rule. Even with its limited facilities, the reading room and the library are utilised by many, making it a valuable part of heritage.

The history

This library was established in 1929, constructed as per traditional Kerala architecture with laterite walls and a tiled roof. The spacious Veranda in the main structure is a typical feature you find in British buildings.  The wall mounted plaque  indicates that the foundation stone was laid on 27 Sept 1927 and  was  named as Fraser Hall, in honour of I M Fraser, the then District Collector of Malabar.  During those days almost all of the senior officers in the civil, police and health administration were British and it is said that they used this place not only as Library but also as a club house for recreation and evening get-togethers.The Night School was another traditional structure which still exits near the library. The plaque here describes this hall as “Sadhu Jana Mandiram (written in Malayalam) - The Poor Man Rest House. This school was inaugurated by B W Day. Esq. ICS on 28 May1933 and it reflects on the importance the British had for education and social welfare.

Another plaque is mounted on the boundary wall of the Fraser Hall. This wall was earlier known as Garden wall and was a gift by a native C Krishnan and was constructed in 1932.  Till a few years back there was a spacious ground in front of this building, which was used as a playground for Volley Ball, Ball Badmintons etc.

Today

According to Mr Amarnath, the Librarian for the past ten years, there are about 7500 books both in English and Malayalam. Of that 100plus were there from the time the library came into existence. The old collection of Malayalam books in the library is an indicator that this centre was also used by locals and it was duly encouraged by the British.  There is a good collection of old books numbering over hundred, which includes the full volume of the Fourteenth edition of Encyclopaedia of Britannica, published in 1929.

Ten years back, a new building was constructed between the Library and the Nigh School buildings and the library was shifted to this new structure. The room in the old library is now the office of the District Library Council.  But the Veranda is still continues to be used as a reading area.

After independence, an elected committee of members are the administrators of the library, reading room and the recreation club. The present President of the committee is Mr. Sankaranunni and the secretary is Ajay Kumar. It is a good sign  that the members and the committee are keen on conserving this heritage which is dedicated in memory of King Edward and Fraser.

(Librarian, Amarnath- 9744934284)

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