“[Her dreams] were to launch a chain of public libraries across Burma, that institution taken for granted in England but absent from Burma except in Rangoon and Mandalay.” Aung San Suu Kyi’s biography, the Lady and the Peacock, refers to her love for the library and her lifelong desire to make sure all her country’s people could access information.
With that in mind, the Beyond Access delegation to Myanmar met Suu Kyi today in Naypyidaw, where the new Member of Parliament made time after a busy day in session to discuss her vision with our team. Currently in the process of launching a pair of mobile libraries in her constituency of Kawhmu township outside of Yangon, Suu Kyi described how she sees a need to rekindle a love of reading and libraries in Myanmar. “People have to get used to public libraries,” she explained. These mobile libraries, based in vehicles donated by a Japanese organization, will bring library services to rural areas where much of the population currently lacks access to information relevant to their lives.
Suu Kyi expressed openness to the idea of including computers in the libraries, both as a way to draw visitors to the service, and as a way of giving children the chance to play educational games that will enhance their love for learning. As the digital age dawns on Myanmar, its people will need to develop the necessary ICT skills, and the country’s more than 4000 community libraries represent a platform through which to introduce them to these opportunities while also bringing them closer to books. Libraries help develop people’s curiosity, Suu Kyi emphasized, and this is key to Myanmar’s development.
It’s the librarian who makes or breaks the library, concluded Suu Kyi, as she explained what’s coming next in her effort to launch these libraries. The librarians must be well-trained in order to reach the people the library is meant to serve, to provide content and services they value, and to respond to them in order to keep them returning for more. The Beyond Access team enthusiastically concurred. Among the Beyond Access coalition, our organizations commit significant energy to helping librarians become 21st-century information guides. We feel fortunate to have an ally in this effort in Aung San Suu Kyi.