Friday, February 9, 2007

Friday, Feb. 9-National Library

Today started early with a visit to the National Library (started in 1905 during the reign of King Chulalongkhorn) here in Bangkok. The photo below is of the old library, now housing a royal archival collection, but it is not where the actual work of the library takes place. That is a more modern, sprawling complex of buildings now undergoing renovation.

The National Library is basically a huge public library serving everyone who seeks service. It's open from 9 am-7 pm, seven days/week.

Funding is from the Ministry of Culture. They have some archival collections, but basically this is a service-oriented library. The National Archives is a separate entity.

The National Library has 17 branch libraries all over the country, and it is designed to be the role model for Thai libraries. Emphasis here is on providing national reference service. They have 320 staff in Bangkok and the provinces. The fact that public libraries are run by the Ministry of Education, while the National Library is run by the Ministry of Culture apparently leads to some disconnects.

The reading rooms here are organized by subject, humanities, social sciences, sciences, etc. Most librarians have bachelors degrees in library science, only a few have masters degrees.

From what I can see, I'm sorry to say the library appears to be underfunded for fulfilling its important mission.

The photo of me and my colleagues standing on the steps was taken at a museum honoring King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) and his good works in the early 20th century. This is on the grounds and is part of the National Library. It is a sort of diorama with scenes of his life and contributions to Thailand (then known as Siam).

This is Pormpimol in the Thesis room, where copies of dissertations and theses from throughout Thailand are housed.

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