Library Readers Association

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The Royal College Library history runs concurrently with the history of the college from the inception of the college itself.
Our First library was the Colombo Academy Library of 1839. Rev. Joseph Marsh, the founder principal of Royal College (then Colombo Academy) started this with a hope of providing the students with self-education. The library was divided in to 3 sections. The first section formed the Science Library; the second section was the Junior Library started in 1923. The third section formed the largest Senior Library.
Mr. B.J.B. Fernando, a former librarian recalled that the Library was moved to the University next door on the 6th of December 1941, as the college was taken over as a hospital for the service personnel of the Second World War. The teachers and the students were very reluctant to let go of the library and some of them even shed tears, he fondly recalls.
In the late '40s, Mr. M.K.J. Cantlay, a teacher and a cadet officer was in charge of the library. Towards the end of his tenure in 1946/1947, Mr. V. Weerasinghe was the Head Library Reader. He later took over the library as a teacher of the college.
Mr. J.C.A. Corea, then principal of Royal College appointed Mr. B.J.B. Fernando as a full time librarian in 1947. He had to convince the authorities of the need for a permanent full time librarian. Mr. R.S. Enright, the librarian of University College and Mr. S. C. Block, Public Librarian, advised Mr. Corea in matters pertaining to the maintenance of the library. Mr. Fernando's salary was Rs. 100, an ample amount in those times.
Mr. Ashley R. W. Tennakoon was appointed as a full time librarian on the 1st of January 1953. He recalls that the Library had been moved to the new premises on the first floor of the West Wing Lobby in 1949, during the tenure of Mr. Amaradasa Fernando, who later joined the University of Peradeniya Library.
Mr. Bonnie Fernando succeeded Mr. Amaradasa. He designed the teak cupboards still in use at the Library. Mr. Hugh Abeyratne then took over the library and left in 1952 to join the Lake House Staff.
Mr. Viji Weerasinghe, a distinguished old Royalist and a Deputy Principal of Royal College took over the Library until Mr. Tennakoon was appointed. Mr. Tennakoon served for ten years before leaving to join the Lake House administration. Then Mr. Saliya Thilakaratne took for about two years.
During Mr. Tennakoon's time, the functioning of the Library and College was disrupted in 1953 and in 1958 due to communal riots. The college was used as a refugee camp during this time.
According to Mr. Tennakoon, the books were purchased direct from reputed book firms in London. Some books were acquired from local booksellers too. A committee of nine teachers recommended books to be bought, and it was well stocked to meet the interests of even the most voracious readers at that time.
The Library Readers Committee existed even then, assisting the Librarian in the functioning of the Library. They helped in the issue and return of books, maintained discipline and provided security for the books from theft. One of these distinguished Library Readers was Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali, a luminary in the political arena.
In 1960/61, the Library was briefly shifted to the Principal's bungalow for re-organization. The students did not welcome this very much and it was moved back in 6 months. The Library had 20000 books in possession at that time.
Mrs. M.M.S Pathiraja was the Librarian in the 1970's. She handed over to Mrs. M.C. Perera as a teacher in charge towards the end of 1978. Mrs. K.D.S. Wijesundara was appointed as the Librarian in 1979 and continued on until 1985. There was not a proper Librarian after she left. Teachers were appointed as Teachers-In-Charge and were assisted by Library Attendant Ms. Charlotte Atapattu, who left in 1991 to join the clerical service. Mrs. M.C. Perera, Mrs. V.G.P. Karunarathna, Mrs. Hema Weerasinghe, Mrs. K.D.D. Wijesinghe, Mrs. K.R.S. Kumarihamy and Mrs. T.N. Dediyagala worked as teachers-in charge at different times during the period between 1975 to 1990.
In 1990, Mrs. A.K. Nanayakkara from the tutorial staff took over as Teacher Librarian. At the end of 1990, Mrs. K.D.S. Wijesundara resumed duties as Librarian. Ms. M.P. Wijeratne came in to replace Ms. Charlotte Atapattu as an Assistant Librarian in 1993. The Education Ministry also provided a Library Attendant. Ms. R. Perera took over as Librarian of the Lending section in 1995.
The Science Library in the A\L section was in a bad state. Therefore, its books were transferred back to the Main Library in 1991. Mrs. P. Rajapakse was the Teacher-In-Charge of the Science Library at that time. In 1999 the Science Library was revived in the form of Science Reading Room. Library Assistant Ashan Wijesundara was placed in-charge of this.
The available records indicate that Mrs. Elikawala was the Librarian of the Junior Library in 1973. In 1979 Mr. M.P.S. Fernando was Teacher-In-Charge and was succeeded Mr. G.V.M. Somakumbura. Then there was a period without a proper Librarian or a Teacher-In-Charge. Later Mr. Sunimal Perera was the Teacher-In-Charge of the Junior Library.
The Library was presented with four computers in 1998 and the computerization of the books began. The Library Readers Committee carried it out. An unfortunate disk crash halted the project mid way through with no backups of the already entered data. Then followed a period of inertia, with the Computers being used for correspondence only. The IT Unit of the Library was inaugurated in 2002 with the aim of making good use of the technology in our hands. Since then, the computerization has been started again with a view of expanding it to a fully automated Library System. The official Library web site was created by Charith K. Ellawala, Director of IT and was launched in April 2002. This is the first time that the college Library has been on-line in its history.
The Royal College Library is continuing to uphold the verse 'Learnt of books’ in our school song. The Library Readers Committee, School staff, and the Librarians strive hard to retain the prestigious name of our Library for aeons to come.

The above account was compiled with excerpts from an article published in the souvenir of the 1994 Library Week. Compiled for the website by Charith K. Ellawala, Dasun K. Lokuhetty, Kelum Weliwatta. © Royal College Library