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Largest library to turn into hospital

Chennai, Nov. 2: Sorry Ma’am, no books. But if your child is ill, you can bring him.

Asia’s largest public library could soon become the continent’s largest hospital for children. In the latest chapter of undoing all that the DMK did, the Tamil Nadu chief minister today announced that her government would convert the Anna Centenary Library into a speciality hospital for kids.

If the Tamil Nadu chief minister’s prescription prevails, the brand new library complex built by the previous regime would soon be smelling of surgical spirits.

In a statement, Jayalalithaa said that since her government was setting up an integrated knowledge park in central Chennai, the library, located 8km away at Kotturpuram in south Chennai, needed to be shifted there.

The AIADMK chief also said that since two other libraries already exist near the proposed park, shifting the Anna Centenary Library would make greater sense.

The library, an eight-storey complex built at a cost of Rs 172 crore by the previous M. Karunanidhi government and inaugurated in September 2010, already has 12 lakh books as well as research facilities.

Connected with the world digital library network to share database, it is popular among both schoolchildren and research scholars, and people were expecting the new government to throw it open to all sections after charging a nominal fee.

“It is the height of political vendetta and stupidity. How can an infrastructure built specifically for academics be used for some other purpose? Next Jayalalithaa may want to convert the Koyambedu bus terminus as an old age home because it was built during Karunanidhi’s time. I hope better sense would prevail and she would reverse this decision,” said Tamil writer and theatre personality Gnani.

Other leading Tamil writers said the move was “shocking and unjustifiable”. Karunanidhi said he would leave the Tamil literary society in protest.

against the move.The Jayalalithaa government has already declared that it would convert the new Assembly-cum-secretariat complex, built during the Karunanidhi government, into a super-specialty hospital like AIIMS. The argument the new regime has put forward is that the building is badly designed and has more corridors than office space.

“What Jayalalithaa does not seem to realise is that she is wasting public money,” said M. Prabhakaran, a Madras High Court lawyer and a regular visitor to the Anna Centenary Library. “If she wants to construct a children’s hospital, why not do it near the new super-specialty hospital she proposes at the Assembly complex?”

School student L. Sanjeev, too, couldn’t figure out why the government wouldn’t let the library remain where it is. “When there are already two libraries in central Chennai, why not let this continue at south Chennai, where a lot of educational institutions are located?” he wondered.

The library complex also has a well-equipped conference hall where US secretary of state Hillary Clinton addressed a gathering during her recent visit to Chennai.

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