My Library, Luang Prabang
Studying Japanese, learning to type, to program, to record your own CD, to grow teak or talk about your culture....it's all happening @ my library.
Update 2014: @ My Library has a new home!
We just moved into a beautiful space in a peaceful setting on the Nam Khan River that we own thanks to Karyn's generousity. We have put a lot of work into the building, adding on, renovating, building a new fence and flood wall, bringing the electricity up to international code and painting. The staff feels a lot of pride and ownership.
We are designing to share possibilities. Our shade and passive cooling vines on the south wall were started from cuttings. The vines are creating a thick cover, now up to the roof and will soon be ready for others to take cuttings for their own free, passive cooling system.
In a neighborhood where everyone concretes their yard we instead brought in a mold and made a walkway/driveway of pavers, strong enough to handle the bikes and motorcycles but with space in between for grass and for the rain to soak in. We have had a lot of interest in the molds and they are available for checkout, like the books, videos and cameras.
Because we own the space we have been able to build in shelving to fit, in a multipurpose space suitable for classes or everyday use.
We designed the computer room to feel spacious and efficient. To keep the users active with all of our digital study materials for languages, sciences, math, typing, Microsoft Office, Photoshop, video and music programs and thinking games, we have limited the internet to 5 of our 11 user computers but have free wifi in and around the library for the many users with their own smartphones, tablets or laptops.
The users have found us, as evidenced by our parking lot in the back. Upstairs, the back balcony with tables, comfortable chairs and stunning views of the River is one of the favorite hangouts.
The statistics tell some of the story, with an average of 100 students a day, a new book checkout level of 500 - 1,000+ books a month, and 25,000 computer hours logged last year. But the story is really about the users.
My Library isn't new, it's just a new name reflecting the sense of ownership the users feel. This library was started in 2003 as the Listening Library, when our emphasis was supporting English study. Since then it has become an ongoing experiment in what happens when you give motivated users the materials and encouragement they need to study anything.
There is a lot of permission and support to study, ask questions, explore possibilities, to try...to have a dream and go after it. There is the sense that learning can be fun, or fun can be a break between the harder times of study.
In a culture where "saving face" is of the greatest importance and to fail is unthinkable one of our most popular books is "Dare to Fail." It is rarely on the shelf for more than a day as they discover that the road to success is usually paved with failure, and that trying, then trying again is what brings results.
We continue to expand, filling every corner, including tables in the hall as the users and their interests grow.
We have a whole group of experts now, some are staff but most are just users learning in a way they never thought was possible.
Developing thinking skills has become an important activity at the library. In their rote educational system they are not encouraged to think, have no hands-on science activities and never learn problem solving skills. Many skills that we take for granted, like building a simple puzzle, are actually learned at a very young age and are dependent on access to toys as well as help from those who already understand the strategies. It is at this library that most users, even those of University age, have their first and only opportunities to do experiments,explore magnifying glasses and microscopes and learn with puzzles, mazes and thinking games.