Come October 15, the City Central Library on Sayyaji Rao Road in Mysuru will turn 100. Just like the University of Mysore that is nearing its centenary year and Mysore Silk that has already crossed its centenary year, the City Central Library was yet another contribution of the royal family of Mysore — the Wadiyars. Thanks to their dedicated efforts, book lovers in the then state of Mysore got an extensive library. For many, it served as the cornucopia of information and knowledge for several years.
As per the records available at the office of Deputy Director of Libraries, Yuvaraja Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wadiyar started the library on October 15, 1915. However, it was after 50 years, in the year 1965, that the library came under the purview of the Department of Public Libraries, according to the Karnataka Public Libraries Department Act. A separate authority named Mysore City Library Authority, headed by the Mayor, looks into the affairs of the library.
Kuvempu (Kupppalli Venkatappa Puttappa), the Jnanpith awardee litterateur, was a regular visitor to the library since his student days and has even described his experiences at the library in his book Nenapina Doni. Libraries have been a part of the society in Karnataka since ancient times. The history of some libraries of the State are intriguing.
According to Kannada Vishaya Vishwakosha brought out by the Institute of Kannada Studies, University of Mysore, “In the days of yore, libraries seemed to be a part of agraharas, mutts, mandiras (temples) and ghatika sthanas (prominent places). Nagaayi or Nagavayi, a popular centre for education during 11th and 12th centuries had a full-fledged library. A library of 2,000 books also existed in Bidar during the year 1472, while a separate hall was built in the Palace of Bijapur by Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah for books. Adil Shah’s library had many books in Parsi and Arabian languages.
Tipu Sultan, who ruled Srirangapatna four centuries ago, had set up a full-fledged library with over 2,000 books, of which, a majority were religious scriptures. One of the books of his collection included the holy book of Quran that once belonged to King Aurangzeb. When Tipu lost to the British, the book was seized by the British and now it can be found in the India Office Library, London.
The first public library was set up in Belagavi in 1848. It was followed by the opening of similar libraries at Dharwad (1854) and Hubballi (1864). In 1954, a library with a collection of 10,000 books, named after Mahatma Gandhi, was started in the State. The credit of starting the first ever village library goes to Santhebachahalli in Mandya district in 1941.
According to available statistics, as many as 35 libraries, housing around seven lakh books (including the City Central Library), are functioning in Mysuru currently. The centenary celebrations of the City Central Library, which was organised on August 12, coincides with the birthday of S R Ranganathan, the ‘Father of Library’, who contributed significantly to the development of libraries in the State.