Whenever the denizens of Kathmandu have to go to a library to read or research, there is really nowhere to go except the Kaiser Library, Kaiser Mahal, Tribhuban University Central Library, Kirtipur, and libraries of embassies.
It appears there aren’t enough full-fledged public libraries that cater to the needs of the readers and moreover there is a lack of reading culture.
“At this age of information, everyone needs information, whether they are students or people from any other fields and for that purpose we need to visit libraries,” says Krishna Mani Bhandari, librarian at Tribhuwan University Central Library.
"We have academic libraries here but we don’t have libraries for the common people,” he says. “The leaders and bureaucrats in Nepal have not yet realized that we need libraries to produce civilized and educated citizens,” Bhandari says adding, “I think that’s the reason we don’t have enough public libraries in Nepal. Plus the few academic libraries we do have aren’t well-equipped.”
Our students are only limited to their school’s or college’s library, which in most cases do not have enough books and resources.
And when it comes to the general public, they really don’t know where to go. “I’ve been working in the field of library for 30 years and there has been a change in the reading culture,” says Jujubhai Dangol, library manager of Kathmandu Valley Public Library, “People have realized the importance of libraries and the demand for information is growing,” he says.
The existing libraries, Dangol claims, however, haven’t been able to provide enough facilities and new books.
Most of the readers visiting the public libraries go there to read newspapers and some simply to kill time. Only a few of them visit for research purposes.
“We have 100 -150 visitors every day and half of them come to read newspapers and magazines while half of them are serious readersA who come to read other books,” says Dangol.
At Kaiser Library, Sitaram Shrestha, assistant chief librarian, says, “About 120 readers from all age groups and background visit the library and most of them come to study books while some come here to pass their time. We don’t have memberships or borrowing provisions, so the visitors come here during opening hours and read here,” he informs.
To a casual visitor, the dearth of reading culture in Nepal is apparent in the empty chairs in these few existing public libraries. Even those who visit the libraries aren’t satisfied as they don’t get the books they are searching for.
“I generally spend about three to four hours in the library every day and most of the time the library remains empty as there aren’t many readers,” says Ramesh Thapa, 24, who is doing a Master of Arts at Tribhuwan University (TU).
“A student’s main intention is to pass exams with good marks so they mainly focus on their curriculum and don’t read other books,” says Thapa. “Even I’m busy reading books only related to my course of study at the library and I don’t borrow books too often as I’m usually busy preparing for exams,” he adds.
“Though most of the times I read books related to my course of study, I also read literature and newspapers,” says Badri Ghimire, 24, Masters level student of mathematics at TU.
“Most of the Masters level students and especially those who are writing their thesis visit the central library, but other students rarely go,” he says. “The central library at TU is the biggest library in the country, but still it has not adopted information technology and it’s tedious to search for books,” Ghimire adds.
“I have never seen our professors studying in the library, so when there is no reading culture among the teacher how can we expect students to be reading in the library?” asks Bimal Kumar Dahal, 25, Masters level student of mathematics at Tribhuwan University.
“There aren’t enough libraries in Kathmandu - let’s not talk about places outside Kathmandu, and even in those few libraries we have - there aren’t enough books,” he adds.
“If we want to develop a civilized society, we should start with a library. The government should open libraries with good infrastructure and management at accessible locations so that the general public can make the best use of the libraries,” Bhandai adds.
He also believes there should be a “reading culture” among teachers so they can recommend books to students.
“We should have a library act to establish and organize community, academic, and national libraries,” says Dangol as he emphasizes that policymakers need to realize that libraries are one of the infrastructures of development.
But Dangol brings up another point,”If we really want to promote reading culture here, it should start from our homes. Parents should tell stories and read books to their children. Through the festival of Basanta Panchami, our culture has also given emphasis on reading as people start reading on that day.” He adds, “But these days, the curriculum is textbook oriented and students aren’t reading other books.”
(Source: Republica Nepal)