No records are available as to the beginning of the YMBA Library. As soon as the YMBA was formed, a small library served the English reading public of Colombo, when the YMBA Head Quarters were at Maradana Walauwa (later Pavilion Hotel). In 1916 it was enriched by addition of the Simon Hewavitharana Library which was reputed to be the largest and the best collection of books in English on Buddhist literature in the Island. Unfortunately, in December 1922, all the YMBA records and a portion of the Library were destroyed by fire.
Some years later the Library and the Reading Room was organized by Mr. W.F. Abeykoon, had once again lapsed into disorder. In the hands of Mr. S.R. Wijetilaka in 1940 the Reading Room was transformed by addition of several new magazines and periodicals, while the Lending Library was re-organized and received a steady flow of new additions. The appreciation of the improvement made was marked by an increase in the Library membership. Further, gifts of books were received from the President and Mr. Justice Wijewardena, as well as from Mr.D.N.W.de Silva and Mrs. Henrietta B.Gunatilaka.
In 1968, during the Sir Baron Jayatilaka Birth Centenary Celebration the Library was renamed “Sir Baron Jayatilaka Memorial Library” and was moved from Mahanil to the Fort building. It was declared open by Ven. Dr. Walpola Rahula Thera, Vice Chancellor of the Vidyodaya University, on 09th February, 1968. The Colombo YMBA is deeply indebted to the invaluable advice and assistance given by the late Mr. S.C.Block, former Librarian of the University of Ceylon, in setting up the Library.
Sir Baron Jayatilaka’s bronze bust sculpted by Tissa Ranasinghe was also placed in the Library during the centenary celebration. The first object that catches the eye of members as they enter the Library is the bronze bust of Sir Baron, which serves as a constant reminder of his greatness and learning. Subsequently Sir Baron Jayatilaka Memorial Library was moved back to Borella complex and now housed on the third floor of the new building.
The present Colombo YMBA Library, a repository of valuable books and bound Ola leaves donated by late Sir D.B.Jayatilaka was originally located at ‘Mahanil’ in Borella. In his last will, Sir Baron Jayatilaka had gifted his entire Library including rare Ola manuscripts to the YMBA. In later years the YMBA Library was supplemented by gifts of books by Mr. E.A.L.Wijayawardena, Dr. C.A.Hewavitharana, Mr. Upali Ramage and several other benefactors. Mr. Siri Perera, a former President of the Association, donated a lifetime collection of Dhamma books along with the cupboard which housed them.
At present the Library has Lending, Reference and Reading sections with more than 7000 books on Buddhism in Sinhala and English, and 156 rare Ola leaves collection, all current Newspapers and journals. From September 2003 the YMBA Management has authorized for non-members to use the Library, the objective being to grant the opportunity for females who are not members of the YMBA to use the Library, which has been denied hither to. It is encouraging to record whilst the collection of books is increasing, the members of the Association and the non-members of the Association, who are members of the Library, is also rapidly increasing. Books have been donated by many people and Institutions over the years. All the books have been catalogued by computer. The YMBA Library collection of books on Buddhist Literature in English is considered one of the best in the country.
Categories of books available in the Sir Baron Jayatilaka Library are as follows:
(Includes ‘The Buddhist’ Quarterly journal Theory
published by Colombo YMBA) Philosophy
Doctrines and Practices Moral Theology
Buddhist Culture Civilization
Buddhist Organizations Sacred places
Activities inspired by religious motives Meditation
Sacred books and scriptures (Tripitaka) Jataka stories
Dhammapada Laws and decisions
Leaders (Buddha, Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis)
Branches (Theravada and Mahayana)
History of Sri Lanka
Culture of Sri Lanka