Those Pesky First World Library Problems

While the United States has been steadily reducing hours or shutting down libraries, other places in the world are getting their first libraries.

Now we want to tell you about one of the world’s newest libraries in Bhutan. Bhutan is a tiny kingdom sandwiched between two giants — India and China. It’s also perched high in the Himalayas — isolated for much of its history.


So when a non-profit group announced it wanted to help the village start a library, the reaction was lukewarm. The library is only the second free lending library in the entire country. The other one is ten hours away in the capital Thimphu.


Choden says some parents were worried by the idea that their kids would borrow books to take home. They were afraid the children might destroy them, and they’d have to pay. The sad part is that the parents here maybe because they’re illiterate don’t see the importance of a book. They don’t encourage their children to read. That’s the sad thing, right?

It reminds me a story from last year in which over 10,000 South African school children marched to demand libraries and librarians. There are charity organizations such as Room to Read working to build libraries around the world in places that never had one before. So while the rest of the world strives to get libraries, we of the ‘first world’ are tossing them to the side.

I’ve said it before: our governmental spending indicates where our societal interests lay. By that account, in the United States we spend over ten times on the military than we do on education. I don’t know whether it is being lazy or careless, but the message I get is that it is easier to build bombs and bullets than it is to build minds and mentalities.

I’m not exactly a pacifist here, but I do know that I have not seen a fictional vision of the future in which we waited for an alien race to land, shot the occupants, and then used their spacecraft to explore the universe. It’s not how we get to the types of futures as envisioned in shows like ‘Star Trek’.

I hate to rant on this because it’s a very old rant with nothing new. But if it can maybe change one person’s mind, then it will be worth it. In my lifetime, hopefully the numbers on the defense and education budgets will swap as we convert from a military-industrial to an educational-industrial complex.

Something to dream about, but when so many things start as a dream, it’s a good starting point.

3 thoughts on “Those Pesky First World Library Problems

  1. Pingback: Look at your blog, now back to me « Sarah Kelly Wright

  2. If you trot out the military as a budgetary boogey-man, you must also look at their place in the federal budget. Spending on the military is a mere pittance compared to the combined bulk of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If we spent on NASA what we spend on those three social welfare programs combined, we could easily have a few moon bases up and running with even civilian guest quarters.

    • There is a difference between military and the Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security programs you mention there: the latter are entitlements, the former is not. I picked military because it is the biggest non-entitlement program that we spend money on. Plus, it transitions well for the closing sentence of a conversion from a military-industrial to a education-industrial. If there is a weakness in that idea, it’s that throwing money at the problem doesn’t help it. However, I see it as a means of revolutionizing the field and giving the next generation a comprehensive education that really addresses their talents and capabilities.

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