Bhutan’s reading culture fades with the advent of the net

The Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Library has experienced a decrease in the number of members within the last five years.

The Librarian in the National Library said “This year the Library has 1,500 members unlike previous years when we used to have around 2,000 members.”

He said the fashion of online reading and internet browsing had led to a decline in the reading culture among the readers.

Therefore, to improve and keep the reading culture alive the National Library has conducted a reading and art competition.

In order to attract more numbers of candidates they also provide free snacks and tea.

They have also made it mandatory to have discipline and maintain the decorum of the library.

He also pointed out some benefits behind learning. “Reading culture would develop some personal qualities such as confidence building, team-work and social connectivity,” he said.

He said that apart from that a reading culture will have cognitive benefits such as the increase in transferable skills and knowledge or even improvement in academic attainment.

Yearly, the Royal Government of Bhutan is providing a budget of Nu 500,000 to buy new books.

But the Librarian said they faces problems such as limited computers even though large numbers of students come and there is not enough space to preserve old books as withdrawal of old books is restricted.

Some of the popular books that the few and existing readers chooses are books on cartoons and short Stories.

Meanwhile the librarian said they are not allowed to take romance books.

“Youth choose books like Twilight Sager, but we usually restrict such books as it will distract students from their study,” he added.

However, adults choose books on Nonfiction, Philosophy, psychology, Biography, Religion.

According to the Librarian those who are preparing for Bhutan Civil Service Exam (BCSE) are going for books written by Bhutanese authors. Children go for books by Aum Kunzang Choden and newspapers.

It is a similar situation with bookshops. Bookshop owners said the number of buyers had been decreasing with the advent of internet facilities.

Except for the occasional bestseller bookshop owners have noticed a downward spiral in the sale of books.

“It is only in tourist season that tourists buy books especially Bhutanese books. Children choose guide books, short stories and newspapers,” said a bookshop owner.

He said that apart from the internet and social media other causes were video game parlors, cable TV and movies.

Sangay Choezom / Thimphu


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