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National Library of India

The National Library of India at Kolkata is the largest library in India.

It is under the Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Government of India. The library is designated to collect, disseminate and preserve the printed material produced in India. The library is situated on the scenic 30-acre Belvedere Estate, in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta City.

The Calcutta Public Library

The history of the National Library began with the formation of Calcutta Public Library in 1836.

That was a non-governmental institution and was run on a proprietary basis. People contributing Rs 300/- in subscription became the proprietors. Prince Dwarkanath Tagore was the first proprietor of that Library. Rs. 300/- at that time was a significant amount, so poor students and others were allowed free use the library for some period of time.

Lord Metcalf, the Governor General at that time, transferred 4,675 volumes from the library of the College of Fort William, Kolkata to the Calcutta Public Library. This and donations of books from individuals formed the nucleus of the library.

Both Indian and foreign books, especially British, were purchased for the library. Donations were regularly made by individuals as well as by the Government.

The Calcutta Public Library had a unique position as the first public library in this part of the world. Such a well-organized and efficiently run library was rare even in Europe during the first half of the 19th century.

Because of the efforts of the Calcutta Public Library, the present National Library has many extremely rare books and journals in its collection.

The Imperial Library

The Imperial Library was formed in 1891 by combining a number of Secretariat libraries in Calcutta. Of those, the most important and interesting was the library of the Home Department, which contained many books formerly belonging to the library of East India College, Fort William and the library of the East India Board in London. But the use of the library was restricted to the superior officers of the Government.

Amalgamation of CPL and Imperial Library

In 1903, Lord Curzon, the Governor General of India, conceived the idea of opening a library for the use of the public.

He noticed both the libraries--Imperial Library and Calcutta Public Library--were under-utilized for the want of facilities or restrictions. He decided to amalgamate the rich collection of both of these libraries.

The new amalgamated library, called Imperial Library, was formally opened to the public on January 30, 1903 at Metcalf Hall, Kolkata. The Gazette of India reported, "It is intended that it should be a library of reference, a working place for students and a repository of material for the future historians of India, in which, so far as possible, every work written about India, at any time, can be seen and read."

Declaring the Imperial Library as the National Library

After the independence the Government of India changed the name of the Imperial Library as the National Library, and the collection was shifted from the Esplanade to the present Belvedere Estate. On February 1, 1953 the National Library was opened to the public.

Library Statistics

  1. Number of books more than 2,270,000
  2. Number of maps more than 86,000
  3. Number of manuscripts more than 3,200
  4. Reading rooms accommodation more than 550
  5. Self space more than 45 kilometers