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Hoi An Library
The first ever public library in Hoi An opened on January 1, 2006. Most of the libraries in Viet Nam are of the subscription type. This means that the library card must be paid for and a deposit must be left to borrow a book. Although the collection is under one thousand books, the citizens of Hoi An have been using the library. One receptionist (age 22) comes every week to borrow a new book and “improve his learning.”
The average citizen of Hoi An does not have expendable income for books and magazines. I asked a young woman (age 24) what kinds of magazines she bought. She said she had never bought a magazine in her life!
As a volunteer, I noticed the avid interest the young people of Hoi An had in the few books that were at the Youth Center. Any new book was rapidly read and passed around. Unfortunately, most of the books left by volunteers were in English. The young people of course read in Vietnamese. On my return to Hawaii, I partnered with another librarian, Sue Smith, determined to change the situation! With the help of students in Hawaii and Disney mini-grants we were able to fundraise enough to begin the library.
A library club was formed with children from the Hoi An Orphanage and Hoi An Street Center. The library club as well as the adult library assistant keeps the library doors open to all, six days a week until seven in the evening.
The first grant allowed for the library club to be trained in book maintenance, simple circulation procedures, book care procedures, and storytelling. The second grant allowed for a storytelling festival hosted by the library club. Using a one-to-one reading format and a critical thinking question process, each library club student read to the younger children of the community for International Global Service Learning Days in April 2006. They specifically invited the poor and boat children of Hoi An so that they would get comfortable coming to the library.
A third mini-grant from Disney was just awarded. It will be implemented in September 2006. The library club with a younger poor child in the community will present an international folktale to the community through original drawings and retelling of the story.
The students of two public schools in Hawaii continue to support the library through selling pencils, candy, and holding swap meets. They are so excited to see pictures of “their” library growing.
Karen Chun, Degenhardt Foundation Volunteer
This project was recently recognized by Volunteers for Prosperity.
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Vietnam Photo Journal
by Don Funk