Books and literature

  • The service provided by the American Library in Nepal is significant
- Monk Krishna Man

Jan 5, 2016-

Library services existed in Nepal since the time of the Rana regime. However, after 2007 BS, library services from foreign countries came into existence in Kathmandu: American Library, British Library, Russian Library and Indian Library. The American Library, which was part of the US Embassy’s public affairs to increase mutual understanding between the US and Nepal, was opened by late Matrika Prasad Koirala, former prime minister. The changing landscape of Kathmandu has forced the American Embassy to change the location of the American Library multiple times over the years. Initially, it was situated at New Road--the heart of Kathmandu. In the course of time, New Road started becoming too crowded, so the Library moved to a more peaceful area in Gyaneshor. A few years later, due to space constraints, the Library again moved to the Hotel Complex of Yak and Yeti and remained there until it finally moved to the newly built embassy building at Maharajganj.  

During the time of the 50’, 60’ and 70’s, the Library activities were quite different. The Library was quieter and the environment more peaceful. Patrons and library users were mostly avid readers. People of all ages, while taking a walk in New Road, could freely drop into the Library without security check at the entrance. The Library frequently screened movies that attracted many students and local residents. Feature film crews were also sent to various remote villages carrying a projector, generator and portable screen to be fitted with standing poles. Porters were hired to carry necessary audio visual items. When the location was chosen for the show in the evening, it was a true film festival for the villagers.

Nepali civil servants from various government departments were the biggest users of the Library books and literary journals. Almost every month, there was a guest speaker from the US to give a talk on a variety of subjects and fields of knowledge. The Library used to invite many inquisitive people to attend the talks.

Moreover, the Library used to distribute educational materials including the magazine ‘Free World’, encyclopedias and dictionaries to the schools, colleges and public libraries all over the country.

There was a wooden catalogue card drawer in the Library. Cards kept the record of the book collection. The Library users checked these cards to know the title and location of the book. That was the system of the Library service in those days which has now become obsolete due to rapid growth of scientific and technological developments.

At present the Library users are required to undergo detailed security check before they enter the Library Hall of the Embassy Building. New services and modern amenities are available including computers with high speed internet connection, searchable electronic databases and digital multi visual materials in addition to traditional paper based books and journals.

Instead of distributing American publications and other reading materials to the different districts of Nepal, the American Embassy established the ‘American Corners,’ a partnership between the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu and local organisations in seven locations throughout Nepal to provide many of the same resources that are available at the American Library. The American corners are

established in Bhairawa, Biratnagar, Dhan-gadhi, Ilam, Pokhara and Surkhet.

In 2013, the American Library also launched a new programme called the Book Bus to provide library and information services in remote areas. The Book Bus donates books to young readers in English and Nepali so as to inspire young people to read.

This service provided by the US embassy has encouraged reading habit and promoted education growth in Nepal. The Nepal government has not been able to follow suit. Although government libraries provide fair services when compared to the budget they receive, more can be done towards improving them. The government should consider investing more in public libraries. But the services provided by the American Library in Nepal are significant and help build audiences in the country who understand and appreciate the US policies and American cultural values.

Man is a former chief librarian of the American Library

Published: 05-01-2016 09:41

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