The last story I have out of Nepal (at least for now) is my biggest tale, at least in terms of my focus and efforts over the last year. The U.S. State Department has opened American libraries all over the world and Nepal we already had about six, plus the Book Bus and a seventh library inside the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu. But that space is small and security is tight, and the potential was there for a second Kathmandu site that could handle more outreach programs and deliver books to underserved communities on the other side of the city. As it turned out the timing of the opening was better than planned, as it came at a time when the few libraries that exist in the city were devastated by the earthquake.
Public libraries in Nepal are rare. Most schools don’t have them either, or only have a small selection of text books that are kept under lock and key. Lending libraries are even rarer. The plan to lend books out from the new space was often met with incredulity as people simply couldn’t believe that anyone would ever return them. Nepal libraries are usually reference centers and still only about books. American Spaces are more multi-media center with computers and electronic resources and, although Nepal mainstream is not really ready for new technology, the need is growing, and the new Innovation Hub will be at the forefront. Its very exciting, I’m just sad that I won’t be in Nepal to see it grow. It was a fantastic project opportunity, which was challenging to handle as it was educational for me, as I’m not a librarian. With the help of a small army–and despite a major earthquake– I managed to open it before I left. I’ll be keeping an enthusiastic online eye on its growth!
The earthquake-wrecked library at Tribuhavan University. Very Sad. None of the bookshelves were bolted down.
The original space before we started: Books covered with quilts of dust; broken shelving units; old paper card index systems; spider-web covered windows. This corner also had termites.
The librarians worked to clear the space and it slowly started to clear out.
As the space opened up, the windows started to become more of a focus. They gave great light and the promise of a bright, open space.
After the electricans had finished, we started to focus on a colour scheme. Custom built furniture was erroneously delivered two months early and had to be removed – that was fun!
Eventually we picked orange for its energy and freshness. Along with the excellent light, it made the space very cheery and welcoming.
This was the condition of the custom built vinyl seat as delivered to me. Not the blue I selected, not the Formica I selected, and covered in dust from sitting around in the factory. It was a very frustrating experience.
Ditto with the circulation desk. I took this photo to show just how awful it looked when it was delivered. The formica was chipped and scratched and the whole thing was filthy. There is no recourse. So often there is just no understanding of quality standards – a very challenging part of the project.
I kept this picture just for the irony. Termites kept invading the library in new spots. I took this photo the day before the earthquake and the next morning a pest control guy arrived with the poison. Two hours later we had a lot more than termites to worry about.
Adding inspirational quotes to the library walls…
…which I was actually doing when the earthquake struck. Carpenters were in the middle of assembling metal shelves when they had to run out of the building. The bookcases were not yet bolted down and swayed dangerously next to my ladder.
Shelving crashed down everywhere except where I stood on the ladder. I was very lucky. For two weeks, the bookshelves lay where they fell alongside the unassembled units on the floor. Finally I got help from the USAID Disaster And Rescue Team (DART) who were still in Nepal but with no longer anyone left to rescue from the quake, they came to my aid instead.
It was so exciting to finally see the shelves going in….
….and the DART teams guys moved like lighting. And, yes, they bolted the shelves down!
A group photo at the end of a job well done. I was so grateful for their help! With the shelves completed the library team could move in with books and start to turn it into a real library
Books on shelves…looking good!
Showing teachers and students around, explaining what the library does and how patrons would be able to borrow books – a pretty new concept for Nepal.
The children’s corner made cosy with children’s picture books, a carpet and cushions.
The first group of school kids visited the library. It was pretty special for me to watch them take it all in.
Cutting the opening ribbon about a week before I left Nepal – one month late because of two earthquakes. No bad really! So amazing that we were able to finish it in time.