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.
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.
To read more in the “Travel Shot” series, click here.