The mention of the school library promptly brings back the picture of a grey-haired, dignified, serious-faced and petite Martha Ma’m – Martha Alex. She was the permanent figure there, the Head Librarian. The library and our reading habits grew under her supervision. Her assistants changed almost every year. They were mostly candidates preparing for their civil service exams, determined to make the cut, doubling up as our reading guides and friends. A job as the Assistant Librarian was near perfect for them at the time as the place gave them all (to be fair, most of) their study material, discussion groups, experts to clear doubts with and a quiet corner to recollect all what they had gained.
Initially (that is for the majority of my 14 years), our school library was on the topmost-floor, near the old auditorium (old because we had a new one built beside the school’s main building a few years before I passed out). The entrance was at the corner where the steps came to an end. It was an exercise to climb all the way up to that floor when the bell rang for the Library period introduced in the school time-table when we are in Class III. 45 minutes when we had to give that restlessness a slight nudge to be quiet. Martha Ma’m had the eyes of a hawk, ears of a dog, and her eyes sparkled whenever we made some noise beyond that pin-drop silence. It was always so quiet in there and mostly dark (of course, there was enough light to read the fine print). Nope! It wasn’t spooky out there. (Don’t get that idea into your heads now!?).
We had a large seating area with long & heavy, polished brown tables that ran the entire stretch of the room (and the room was quite long, u know, half of that top floor corridor almost) with backless benches for us to sit on to read, write or even sleep on both sides of the table. One of the walls (the one on the side of the corridor) parallel to these tables was lined with cupboards. Their doors had small square glass planes so that we could see and read the titles of books stacked inside. Reference only, it said in bold red letter. You guessed it right; those big fat Britannicas, Collins n Americanas, 24 volume Oxford dictionaries and other hardbound heavy books, too heavy for a Class 3 standarder to lift. And from the opposite wall, light streamed in through the windows where we witnessed the Brownian effect in action long before we knew the phenomenon or its name. We learned about it in a Chemistry class in STD XI.
The open bookshelves were behind the Librarian’s chair. It was a separate area, demarcated by a banister that ran along the breadth of the room to the right side of the door with a small opening for an entrance – a kind of rickety garden gate. That’s right. The tables were on the left. So when our names were called in roll number order we walked up to Martha Ma’m to collect our abridged versions of the classics. In Class 4, she introduced us to Enid Blyton. When in Class 5 we were to write summaries (not copy from the blurb) of the stories of the book we read every week in one page of a small 200-page lined note book. By this time, we were the envy of the junior classes. We were part of one of the four school houses, could go up to a shelf behind Martha Ma’m select our 2 books (one full version classic and one popular book) for the week and the best part, sign our names in the library register next to our name :))
Source: Memories of my School Library