Chennaiite maintains 1,500 palm leaf manuscripts

By Karthikeyan Halan Published on Sep 17, 2017 12:34 PM IST

Chennai: J Lalitha, a resident of Ashok Nagar, received ‘Life Time Achievement Award’ from Madras Library Association, the oldest association in India, for her meritorious service in the field of Library and Information Science.

Tamilnadu Public Libraries Director S Kannappan presented the award to Lalitha during the 125th birth celebration of  Dr S R Ranganathan, father of Library Information Science, held here recently.

Lalitha worked as technical assistant from 1975-83 at Adyar Library, Theosophical Society. Later, she joined as a library assistant in The Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute, Mylapore, and is presently working as librarian.

She did her MA in Sanskrit and Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) and worked under many stalwarts in the field of Sanskrit and Indological studies.

Around 15 members, including Lalitha, are maintaining the research institute’s library consisting of more than 60,000 books and 1,500 palm leaf manuscripts with support from its director V Kameshwari and deputy directors K S Balasubramanium and T V Vasudeva.

Lalitha is more focused on conservation and preservation of rare, old palm leaf manuscripts and old books. She preserves hem using only natural preservation methods.

‘"Usually, lemon grass oil is used in libraries for preservation. But, we use only natural preservation, where it helps in aborbing the moisture content and maintaining normal temperature. Also, it keeps away insects. In other preservatives, the pages in the books or the palm leaves get pasted together due to moisture content,’" she says.

"‘The materials for natural preservations are purchased from traditional medicine shops from Mylapore and we prepare them ourselves,’" she adds.

Asked about why she focuses more on natural preservation, Lalitha says, ‘"Though technology has helped in digitising all works, people still come back to libraries for reference. In such situations, the original works help them a lot.’

‘In our institute, we have palm leaf manuscripts in Tamil, Malayalam, Grantha and Tihilara. It contains Valmiki Ramayana, Visishtadvaita , Jhothisha and a few medicinal works with diagrams."

Lalitha, who has presented papers in many national conferences, wants youngsters to visit libraries frequently. ‘"I request parents and teachers to take children to libraries, where they get a chance to touch the books and read them. It would slowly help them learn the habit of reading,’" she says.

Lalitha is thankful to her father V R Manickam, husband K S Jayakumar, a retired auditor, in-laws and children for supporting her to continue her work.

Lalitha stays at E1, MIG 120 Flats, 11th Avenue. With regard to preservation of books, she can be reached at 99410 80144.