In the U.S. we take libraries for granted. Obviously it’s a place to borrow a book as an alternative to buying a book. It’s a place to conduct research for a school project or attend fascinating lectures on travel, crafts, or income tax preparation. It’s a place to tuck into a comfy nook and lose yourself in a picture book. And for some it’s a glorious refuge for solitude, musty book smells, and delightful worlds to be explored.
After 50 years of military dictatorship, Myanmar’s libraries ceased to exist. They are just now starting to be resurrected around the country.
EE’s implementing partner Banyan Tree is a key player in current library start-up development. They incorporate a standardized start-up selection of books and periodicals, utilize the Dewey Decimal System of categorization, train budding new librarians in operation processes, and create an inviting environment to be explored. Their key to success, though, is teaching children and parents WHY they will want to visit the library and WHAT THEY WILL DO in the library. Starting a library is not about hanging up a sign and opening the doors. It’s about orienting the community to the benefits of a library, and enticing them into this glorious new world.
Saturday is activity day at our new Myitkyina library. Although not a large facility, it is totally inviting with colorful decorations, natural light, fresh air, and a bounty of books. During my visit this last Saturday, approximately 25 of the regular attendees were present and eager to start the fun.
I brought with me ‘culture frames’ made by Hyla 6th graders, each displaying a photo of the student surrounded by their drawings showing their home, family, and interests. Our partner Naw Cynthia presented each culture frame to the attendees, helping them to understand the concept and learn about these American children living on the other side of the world.
Next, each of the attendees created their own culture frame to be hand carried back to the Hyla students. Each child stood for a Polaroid photo and then proceeded to add their drawings to tell their story of their home, family, and interests. There was a lot of serious concentration as each child eagerly completed his/her culture frame.
Culture frames were followed by an arts/crafts session, story time, educational computer activities, and snacks. And, finally, all of the children selected books ‘to borrow’ and waited patiently in line for the librarian to process their check-outs. They can borrow up to 4 books for 2 weeks.
Our Myitkyina library has all of the key components of a library. It is by definition and example a real library. And as such, it will open up the world to these Kachin children and will most definitely change their lives.
Banyan Tree and EE believe that the path to achieve dreams starts with books. We're excited to introduce the world of books to Kachin children in our new library!