Public Library
Colombo 7

The Colombo Public Library nowadays is quite an impressive building, done up recently in the style of modern urban architecture. From the front it has an appearance somewhat similar to that of the Gold Center, with its dark gold and orange bodywork and the wing-like décor projecting forward towards the little walkway across the pond to the green spaces outside the building. In total the complex is airy and beautiful, an almost perfect environment in which to read or relax.

The building has been around since 1813 and it was used mainly by the British aristocrats, civil servants and military officers, rather than by the common people. At the time it was called the United Service Library, but in reality it was one of two of the same kind.

The other was the Colombo Pettah Library, founded by the Burgher community of the time. In truth the earlier Public Library saw its true dawn in 1925, thanks to one of the resolution put forward by E.W. Jayawardena of the Colombo Municipal Council and since then has been the largest library in the country. For a long time it was as it was, until a completely new complex was constructed closer to Viharamahadevi Park.  The old Colombo Library became the official residence of the Mayor of Colombo. The new library currently holds at least 400,000 volumes, with 5000 or 6000 coming in newly to add to the ever-expanding collection. Much of the library is full of dark furniture, while it is still spacious enough to let in enough light to make it a good trip as you browse among the bookshelves. There are books in all three languages here, ranging from fiction to philosophy and science. There is a study hall, and the other services provided include photocopy services, an Internet section and a room for newspapers. In fact the study hall is the best part of the tour, with its great openness and windows to let in great showers of sunlight.

Written by Vasika Udurawane for

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