Library Movement in Kerala

Public Library Movement in Kerala is older than of any other state in India and is unique in many respects. In the erstwhile Travancore, Cochin and Malabar which formed the constituent areas of the present Kerala State, Public Library Development occurred at different period.

There were several illustrious forerunners to the Grandhasala Sangham. In fact, the early beginning of public library movement goes back to the time of Swatithirunal, the visionary king of Travancore. The Thiruvananthapuram Public Library was established in 1829 the year in which Swatithirunal ascended the throne, seven years before the Calcutta National Library (1836). Col. Edward Cadogan was the president and the king himself the patron of the Thiruvananthapuram Public Library. The Raja also spoke about setting up a library service. He was also the orginator of the idea of government grant to libraries.

On 14thSeptember 1945 under the initiative of Sri. P.N. Panikkar 47 representatives from libraries across Travancore met in a conference at Ambalappuzha. The conference was inaugurated by Sir. C.P. Ramaswamy Iyyer, the then Diwan of Travancore, a factwhich showed the degree of government patronage for this effort. The conference elected an organizing committee with K.M. Kesavan as President and P.N. Panikkar as Convenor. The committee formulated a framework for action to improve the existing libraries and to set up new ones. This is usually taken as the official beginning of the Kerala Grandhasala Sangham.

In the princely state of Cochin library movement became popular with the advent of the nationalist movement even though the Ernakulam Public Library was started much earlier.

In British Malabar (Northern part of Kerala) library movement grew as an intimate part of nationalist movement and left and other progressive movements. However, it must be remembered that throughout Kerala the course of political and socio-religious reform movements inevitably inpacted upon the development and growth of library movement.

From the very beginning the library movement took up the cause of literacy. In Malabar the movement started night classes from 1937 onwards. Literacy campaign and connected activites continued to be a major activity of the organization. In recognition of the systematic and sustained efforts of the organization to spread literacy it was awarded the UNESCO KRUPSKAYA award in 1975.

Several conferences of leaders and representatives of the library movement with the objective of creating an effective apex body and system to guide and improve the functioning of the libraries marked important milestones in the history of the movement.

Off these early conferences the “Malabar Vayanasala Sangham” conference of 1937 held at calicut and attended by 300 delegates standsout for its conceptual clarity, democratic organizational coherence, sensitivity and vision. The conference created an organization named Akhila Malabar Library Sangham which put forth a creative plan of action. In 1943 the whole of Kerala was brought under the ambit of the organization’s activities and was registered with a new name “Kerala Grandhalaya Sangham”. The executive committee was accordingly re-organized.

In 1949, with the merger of the two princely states of Travancore and Cochin the Travancore Grandhasala Sangham became the the Thiru- Cochi Grandhasala Sangham. With the formation of the linguistic state of Kerala in 1956 the three former political units were united. A common apex body covering the entire state became an imperative. In 1958 Kerala Grandhasala Sangham came into existence with a governing body elected from among the library workers of the State.

In the meantime there were attempts from the part of the Government to undermine the democratic character of the Granthasala Sangham and consequent popular resistance against such attempts. Library activists throughout the state were in the forefront of such struggle .The popular democratic character of the library movement was restored with the passing of the Public Library Act of 1989. This Act represented a real rupture in the history of legislation on libraries. The Act also ensured the participation of library workers in the running of libraries at all levels and protection of affiliated libraries. The Act succeeded in converting the Library Council into an independent peoples cultural statutory body. As per the act, after elections at all levels, the first Library Council assumed office on 27th April 1994.

A three tire system is envisaged under the Act. Each library affiliated to the State Library Council elects two representatives to the Taluk Library Council. The Taluk Library Council elects from its members a nine member executive committee and the executive committee elects office bearers. The Taluk Library Council also elects seven members to the District Library Council. The District Library Council members so elected from the Taluk Library Council elect a eleven member executive committee and one representative to the State Library Council from each taluk. The executive committee elects office bearers also. The State Library Council members elects a 15 member executive committee  and state executive committee elects its office bearers -President, Vice President, Secretary, Joint Secretary. The State Government is empowered to nominate five experts from various fields. The Secretaries of Higher Education Department, Finance Department, Culture Department, Local Self Government Department and General Education Department are also ex–officio members of executive committee. The Taluk Library Councils and District Library Councils discharge their duties under the guidelines and supervision of the State Library Council.

The library movement played a crucial role in spreading the ideas of social renaissance in the state. It helped to liberate the people from degenerated feudal obscurantism, mental enslavement and narrow parochial loyalties and helped create a new nationalistic, democratic, secular, progressive and humanistic world view.

At present 8182 libraries are affiliated to the Kerala State Library Council. These libraries have to go through a grading process every year and grants are given to them as per the grading. Working grant and performance grant are also extended to libraries, on the basis of their activities and overall performance.

 

 

Activities of the State Library Council

Immediately after assumption of charge, the State Library Council organised a number of programmes. The fact is that the programmes gained momentum only from 1996, the year from which there was marked improvement in the financial position. The major activities launched by the Council are mentioned below:

14 Model Village Libraries are at present functioning in all the districts in the form of one centre in each district. They mainly concentrate on helping students at the university level. The 63 Career Guidance Centers functioning in all the taluks are really the reliable guidance centres for the rural youth in Kerala. The 63 Taluk reference libraries, started with the assistance of the 11th Finance Commission, will be continued. Vanitha pusthaka vitharana Kendram (Women book distribution centers) in 1000 libraries and Vanitha Vedhi in 500 libraries working with the financial assistance of the state library council significantly contribute to the social and cultural life of women of the state.

Establishment & development of District &Taluk Libraries, office automation programme of the state & district offices, enriching the libraries with special reference book kits & C D’s, launching of the first Malayalam library software are some of the important projects of the council. Library service in seven Jails including Vanitha jail at Neyyattinkara and Open Jail at Cheemeni, libraries in five juvenile homes, library services in seven orphanages, and special library service in seven hospitals including mental health centres at Kuthiravattom, Thrissur and Peroorkada and Malabar Cancer Centre included in the plan scheme will be continued.

State Library Council have taken steps to achieve the goal of starting 2000 Balavedi (Children’s fora Wing) centres, (now numbering 1000) throughout the state during 2012-13. About seven lakh students are at present participating in the Reading Competition organised by the Council, named as “Aksharotsavam of high school students in Kerala”. Five Tribal Libraries were started with the financial assistance of Library Council in the past three years. More tribal libraries will be established this year with all the modern facilities and they will be developed into the status of reference libraries in the coming years- especially to study about the tribes.

The movement always got the strong support from political leaders, writers, artists, poets along with laymen. The renowned malayalam writers Prof. Joseph Mundassery (malayalam critic and education minister in the first Kerala cabinet), Panampally Govinda Menon(Central minister of Law), Thayat Sankaran (Critic), Dr. Ayyappapanicker (Poet), Prof.S. Guptan Nair(Critic), I.V. Das were always the part of Grandhasala movement. Kadamanitta Ramakrishnan, the famous poet of malayalam was the first President of Kerala State Library Council. He was in that position for 10 years.

Now Kerala State Library Council is led by Dr.K V Kunhikrishnan (President) and                Adv. P. Appukuttan (Secretary).

 

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Public Library Movement in Kerala is older than of any other state in India and is unique in many respects. In the erstwhile Travancore, Cochin and Malabar which formed the constituent areas of the present Kerala State, Public Library Development occurred at different period.

There were several illustrious forerunners to the Grandhasala Sangham. In fact, the early beginning of public library movement goes back to the time of Swatithirunal, the visionary king of Travancore. The Thiruvananthapuram Public Library was established in 1829 the year in which Swatithirunal ascended the throne, seven years before the Calcutta National Library (1836).

On 14thSeptember 1945 under the initiative of  Sri. P.N. Panikkar 47 representatives from libraries across Travancore met in a conference at Ambalappuzha. In this meeting an organization of   libraries was formed under the banner Akhila Thiruvithankoor Granthasala Sangham  This is taken as the official beginning of the Kerala Grandhasala Sangham.

In the princely state of Cochin library movement became popular with the advent of the nationalist movement even though the Ernakulam Public Library was started much earlier.

In British Malabar (Northern part of Kerala) library movement grew as an intimate part of nationalist movement and left and other progressive movements. However, it must be remembered that throughout Kerala the course of political and socio-religious reform movements inevitably impacted upon the development and growth of library movement

In 1949, with the merger of the two princely states of Travancore and Cochin the Travancore Grandhasala Sangham became the the Thiru- Cochi Grandhasala Sangham. With the formation of the linguistic state of Kerala in 1956 the three former political units were united. A common apex body covering the entire state became an imperative. In 1958 Kerala Grandhasala Sangham came into existence, with a governing body elected from among the library workers of the State.

In the meantime there were attempts from the part of the Government to undermine the democratic character of the Granthasala Sangham and consequent popular resistance against such attempts. Library activists throughout the state were in the forefront of such struggle .The popular democratic character of the library movement was restored with the passing of the Public Library Act of 1989. The Act ensured the participation of library workers in the running of libraries at all levels and protection of affiliated libraries. The Act succeeded in converting the Library Council into an independent people’s cultural statutory body. As per the Act, after elections at all levels, the first Library Council assumed office on 27th April 1994.