Travel Shot: The Nilgiri Library

The Nilgiri Library in the hill station of Ooty (also known as Udhagamandalam or Ootacamund) in Tamil Nadu was established in 1859 and moved to its present premises, a handsome red and white Victorian building, in 1867. According to an information board at the Library:

On 28th August 1967, the foundation stone of the main building was laid by the Hon. Mr. A.J. Arbuthnot, then Chief Secretary to the Madras Presidency. A religious ceremony was conducted by Rev. Dr. G.U. Pope. A parchment in the name of the “Holy Trinity” was placed under the stone work… The site on which the Library stands once housed the Jail and Post Office !

I came to know of the Nilgiri Library when I was doing research on Ooty prior to my short #NilgiriMountainHoliday about two months back. Just reading about the library and its collection of over 25,000 books, rare volumes as well as a beautiful reading room was enough to make me head straight to the Library on my arrival at Ooty.

The Members Only sign at the entrance did make my steps falter a bit, but I was confident that I could persuade the Library staff to at least see the reading room, if not their collection.

Nigiri Library, ooty, Ootacamund, Udhagamandalam, Libraries of India, Tamil Nadu, Books, Reading, Travel
The driveway leading to the entrance to the Nilgiri Library.

I was wrong. I wasn’t allowed inside and the “Members Only” sign was pointed to when I requested for access to the Library. I had to be content with seeing the Library from the outside. The grand red and white building is a good example of Victorian architecture and does inspire time travel to the days of the Raj. Built with bricks and lime mortar, it also has some unique window designs, arches and woodwork that add to the overall aesthetics of the building.

It was, however, small consolation for not being able to see the Library interiors and its collections, as I’m sure it is for you.

As far as I’m aware, the Nilgiri Library is supposed to be a public library, which is why even 2 months after my visit, I am still pondering as to why itinerant visitors and eager book lovers are turned away and not allowed inside ! The Library’s motto “Abeunt Studia In Mores”, which means “studies determine character” definitely does not apply to the rude staff at the Library.


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14 thoughts on “Travel Shot: The Nilgiri Library

    1. I’ve been told that it is really beautiful and the collection is huge. Personally, I have no problems with a members only library. But if this is a public library, then this is wrong. While only members can be allowed to borrow books and use other Library facilities, members of the public should be allowed into at least visit the Reading room and see their catalogue of collections. They can be charged for it to. But not allowing non-members inside is a bad move.

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  1. I was here about a decade ago and they allowed me in.. it is beautiful on the inside as well, walls lined with books .. quite a large collectio, if I remember right . Photography wasn’t allowed inside..

    I was in Ooty on an assignment from a magazine to cover the dog & horse shows..

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    1. Lucky you. I have no issues with photography not being allowed, but at least allow those who are interested in books and even charge them if you want to. I for one, wouldn’t mind paying.

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    1. Isn’t it, Todd? Libraries and bookshops are my favourite places to visit to. In fact my friends call me the travelling bookwork ! 😛 Another fantastic Library that I have come across is the Kembell Library in Jhalawar, Rajasthan. Its part of a college college and no one ever goes there, including the Librarian. If you ever get a chance to be in that part of the world, do visit it.

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  2. The Kembell Library in Jhalawar too now as the university library, is a sealed and barred building accessable to no one except an unintetested librarian who has the keys

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    1. Ah ! The Kembell Library. The next time I’m in Jhalawar, I’m going to try and spend a day there and browse through the books and all. That is, if the Librarian allows me in. PS: Do you think I could become the Librarian there?

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    1. Don’t know whether the library staff read or not, but they were surely irritated at my pestering them and at my attempts to persuade them to change their minds to let me in.

      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

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  3. Surprised that they wouldn’t even allow a look around. Unless it is a private library, one should be allowed to use at least the reference section. I agree with butterfliesonmymindblog!

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    1. Zephyr, that is my issue with the Nilgiri Library is. And I wouldn’t have minded if they took in a visitor’s fee or something for I know how short of funds libraries are. There are always ways to make this work if they want to. Specific timings for visitors, a visitor’s fee are just a couple of them.

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