National library in the process of framing a “protective” membership policy for borrowing books

The National Library and Archives of Bhutan (NLAoB) in Thimphu is the biggest library in the country with8,000 books in English and 12,655 volumes of booksand scripts of Buddhism in Dzongkha besides books in Chinese, Tibetan, Hindi and others.

However, the library stopped lending books to readers in 2007 because the management began encountering difficulties in keeping the archive intact. Borrowers would take the books home and tear off pages or they would keepthe books on the pretext of losing them and pay fines instead if the books were affordable.

But the officiating director of the library said that now the authorities are in the process of framing a policy whereby these issues would be addressed and readers would once again avail the opportunity to take books to their places toread.

The policy will explore the membership system of borrowing books.However, the library will not be lending out books to nonresident foreigners and would have strict rules in place for resident foreigners.

Some of the scripts in the national library date back to the eighth century; some of the important documents preserved are the Zhabdrung’s kashos from the 17th century and tax exemptions. Some of the most prized writings are the golden manuscripts from the 11th century and a text on Bonism.

In order to preserve these fragile documents dating back to hundreds of years, the library has been divided into three divisions: the archives, research and the library division. “Archives are different from library and it is well preserved mainly to support good governance with its references,” said the chief Archivist , Kunzang Delek.

Besides all the historic books and Buddhist manuscripts, books written by Bhutanese authors are also kept in the library. In fact, it is compulsory for the publishers or the authors to send five copies of his/her book if it is published by private firms but if it is a government-owned or initiated book than 10 copies are to be submitted to the library.

The NLAoB also has a branch library in Trongsa housedin the palace of Bhutan’s second king at Kuenga Rabten, the main reason for having a branch being to make sure that even if anything untoward happens to the library in the capital,there can be a substitute for the books lost, said the librarian, Sonam Yudon.

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