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Jaffna Public Library

Jaffna Public Library
Jaffna Public Library (Tamil: யாழ் பொது நூலகம்; Sinhala: යාපනය මහජන පුස්තකාලය) is located near the Ancient Fort in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

The library was established as the private collection of the scholar K.M. Chellapha, who began lending books from his home in 1933 (Knuth, 2006). In 1934, a committee set up a formal library, with Chellapha as the secretary and initially, there were about 1000 books, newspapers, and journals kept in a single room (Knuth, 2006). Subsequently, this collection was shifted into a building on Jaffna’s main street and was opened to subscribers (Knuth, 2006). With the popularity the library gained, a new major building was built and opened in 1959 (Knuth, 2006).

It was among the biggest libraries in Asia during the early 1980s with its entire collection of around 97,000 books and with centuries-old manuscripts (Chandrasekar & Sivathaasan, 2016). The collection became well-known internationally and was popular among Sinhalese and Tamil intellectuals, as well as the general public (Knuth, 2006). However, on the night of 1 June 1981, the library was burnt by a few Sinhalese mobs during the riots that occurred during the District Development Council elections (Chandrasekar & Sivathaasan, 2016; Knuth, 2006). The damaged library was rehabilitated by the Government of Sri Lanka in 2001 with a new structure and collection and the renovation was completed in May 2003 (Chandrasekar & Sivathaasan, 2016). The library was reopened to the public on 23 February 2004 (Chandrasekar & Sivathaasan, 2016).

Presently, this library operates with five branch libraries located at Nallur, Vannarpannai, Gurunagar, Tamil Hindu Cultural Centre and Navanthurai in Jaffna (Chandrasekar & Sivathaasan, 2016). All these branches are administered by the Jaffna Municipal Council (Chandrasekar & Sivathaasan, 2016).


1) Chandrasekar, K. and Sivathaasan, N., 2016. Children’s section of the Jaffna Public Library: user satisfaction survey. Library Review, 65(1/2), pp.108-119.
2) Knuth, R., 2006, Destroying a Symbol: Checkered History of Sri Lanka’s Jaffna Public Library. In 72nd IFLA General Conference and Council, pp.20-24.

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This page was last updated on 27 February 2023

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