Library fighting to regain its glory with local, INGO support

Baglung, November 5:

The Bidya Mandir Pustakalaya (BMP), a 59-year-old library, could have never seen so few readers like in the present days.

The library, which was established at the time when Nepal was closed to the outer world in 1946, served as a good source of information and inspiration to the youths to unite in their fight against the ‘oligarchic’ Rana regime, but now it has lost its glory because people have lot of other easily accessible alternative sources of information and entertainment — televisions, radios, newspapers and Internet among others.

“We really have to struggle hard to regain our lost glory and bring readers back to the library and for this we need to have a good collection of bestseller books and manage the library through more innovative technologies,” said Harihar Shrestha, the chief librarian.

Earlier lot of readers used to visit the library and books had to be booked in advance but these days very few readers visit the library, he said.

The BMP, which has a collection of 9000 books including some 2000 fictions and 12 hand written children story books, is visited by around 70 readers everyday.

Gagan Lal Shakya, president of the library said they have planned to organise a mobile library to attract more readers to the library and create awareness about the importance of libraries and develop a book reading culture.

This would also benefit readers in the remote parts, who want to read books but do not have easy access to them, Shakya said.

“We need create awareness among the students, especially younger, about the importance of libraries and benefits of reading books. We need to show them how good books and book reading culture could help change people’s lives,” he said adding, “We are therefore, planning to install latest information technology in the library in the near future. This, we believe, would attract more readers.”

“The opening hours for the library has been increased from one hour every day to three hours and we are ready to extend the time if we see considerable increase in number of visitors,” said Shakya.

However, there is not only a sad story for the library. With funds collected by the local people by organising student coaching classes, fairs, cultural programmes and collecting donations, in addition to financial support from Rural Education and Development (READ), the library has now got a concrete building of its own to house a separate child room, general collection room, reference collection room, Ratna Shrestha Puraskar Nepali Language department, a computer room, seminar hall and one meeting hall.

Moreover, there are plans to rent the meeting hall and some space for shops to collect fund to operate the library on a regular basis.

The library, which faced closure for two times, once in 1947 for one and half year for operating without permission from the state administration and in 1977 for hanging posters of communist and other leaders of the country, is now regaining life and librarian Harihar Shrestha says, “We want the younger generation to know how much a library can do for the betterment of a society.”

Uttam Shrestha, secretary of the library said that lack of children movies has affected the flow of children, who earlier used to come for movie shows.

Dr Allison Wren, advisor board member of the READ said that a library helps overcome the fear of learning, allowing change to take place for the betterment through education.

“You feel more controlled if you are empowered with words which is given only through reading and learning new things,” said Dr Wren.

READ has supported 39 libraries in 33 districts till date since 1991 and has targeted to support and to expand 250 libraries through out the nation.

“It is also planning to make eight regional libraries in all five development regions as ‘model’ libraries and is planning to support three existing libraries next year,” said Dr Wren.