My earliest memories of a library are of Murugan lending library in the neighbourhood of Adayar in Chennai where I grew up. This was my most eagerly awaited trip of the week, where I used to go with my father (and later on, by myself) to pick books. Comics, detective novels, classics – I devoured them all, quickly graduating from books for children to more. The library itself was nothing remarkable – a small narrow room with books on all three walls, neatly stacked by genre and author name. Each book would be painstakingly entered in the huge ledger, with some cryptic number code and date of borrowing and return. What I remember now, strangely enough are the smells from there – the smell of old, browning books. And in the basement of the building where Murugan was located was the Adayar Woodlands hotel; the smell of masala dosa roast (a rare treat in those days) wafting up to the library at all times. And back home, I had to bargain with my mother – finish your homework or some other painful chore before you can read one of the books and so on.
When I left childhood behind, I also left the library and later on realized that they had shut down. My only other experience with a library was with one in the Alwarpet – Gopalapuram area (was it Easwari?) where I could buy old books at a cheap rate. After that, I somehow never got a membership in any other library, not even at the British Council. I had started buying books, you see, no longer content with reading and returning. And also, let’s face, there weren’t too many good ones left by then.
And now, years later, I found Just Books near my home – purely by chance – I was out shopping for groceries and the library was right there. How things have changed – Just Books has a great system of book borrowing and return – everything on a touch kiosk. They have a website with all the trappings of modern life in this digital area – a blog, book reviews and so on. And I love it. I am so glad to have a library back in my life.