A people's library in Ben Tre

The Library of Dang Huynh in An Loc Thi Village, An Thanh Commune, Mo Cay District, is the first "people's library" in Ben Tre. The library, which was inaugurated and opened to public in August, 2004, is an initiative of Mr Dang Van Thanh, who is based in Ho Chi Minh City and now is Chairman of the Sacombank branch in Ben Tre, and his wife, Mrs Huynh Thi Ngoc, who was born in An Thanh.

The couple have invested more than VND 200 million to construct the library building and another VND 50 million to install bookshelves and other interior furniture. A sum of VND 300,000 a month is also allocated to pay for a librarian to look after it.

Mr Thanh's good initiative was warmly welcome by the local authority, and was supported with a 900-square-meter land area for the building and monthly electricity and clean water expenses. The library also received technical supports from the Nguyen Dinh Chieu Library and Mo Cay District Library. 50 copies of various book titles were also contributed by the Nguyen Dinh Chieu Library.

The resonance of the "people's library" model has also drawn contributions from many kind-hearted people outside the province. Mr Nguyen Tri Dung in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, a higher education student, got to know of the library through the mass media, and decided to donate all of his 1,000 copies of book, newspaper and magazine that he had collected since his days at the university. Mr Nam, a librarian at the National Library in Ha Noi, has sent in 100 book copies on returning to Ha Noi from one of his working trip to Ben Tre.

Altogether, the library now has more than 1,700 copies of reference book and 4,500 copies of book for young readers. The library now has issued 500 reader's cards, receiving an average of 100 readers everyday, and is open to public 5 days a week like state-run libraries.

"During early days, the library operated just three days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays", said Mr Pham Minh Nhut, the library's 69-year-old librarian, who had 21 years of experience as a librarian in school libraries. "Later, as readers' demand was rising, especially from school children, the library expanded its operation to 5 days a week. So far, it has served thousands of readers".

The reason why Dang Huynh library draws crowds of readers may be explained by the fact that it is located in a neighbourhood of 5 schools of all levels in An Thanh and Thanh Thoi B Communes, which have thousands of students and teachers who may want to come to read at the library or borrow books from the library for reading at home.

"There is a library in my school, too", said Nguyen Minh Quan, an 8th-form student at the Thanh Thoi B secondary school. "But I and many of my classmates like to read books at the Dang Huynh Library because it has very many books to borrow, while the library in my school is used mostly for learning equipment storage and only has books for smaller students".

In the coming time, Mr Thanh is planning to invest more in installing computer systems for the library for better service and knowledge upgrading for young readers in the rural area, according to Mr Nhut. In preparation for working with and controlling the new computer systems to be installed at the library, Mr Nhut has been striving very hard with self-teaching books on computer know-how. "It's advisable to get ready before actually working on the computer, in order to be able to do various tasks such as hardware repair", Mr Nhut said.