Chhimi Dema 

Housed in a single-storey traditional structure at Chubachu, Thimphu’s only public library remains in a sorry state. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Public Library established in 1989 has not seen any significant change.

The shelves are cramped with books that have curled-up pages from many readers who visited the library and found joy in reading them.

The place continues to see young visitors excited to borrow the next book of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series or the next Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.

No new titles are found in the library. It has only books before 2015. Any book published after 2015 are at the Royal University of Bhutan, an extension of the public library at Chubachu.

Members of the library said that there is a need to develop the library.

A library member said that many things in the library could be improved. “They could do so much with the space–rearrange it or have a coffee shop, and make it appealing. Reviving a place like this is important.”

The member said that much of the library had remained the same since her younger days. “Nothing changed from how it was when I visited two decades ago.”

Records show that there are 70,000 books for younger and older readers at the library. About 4,000 individuals are members but only about 2,000 members are active. There are two librarians and staff on contract managing the library.

The library member said that there are people (old members and parents) who would want to support the library but don’t know how to.

For some, the library serves as an alternative to the bookstores closing in the city.

Another member said that the library has become sad. “It seemed big we were little and had so many books. Today it is depressing with the same old books.”

An official from Thromde said that the public library’s development depends on the availability of space and budget. “With those absent, no change has been made so far.”

The official said that with the upcoming technology, there is a need to supplement the existing library with ICT facilities. “Thromde is continuing to explore ways to improve the library.”

A library member, Damchoe, said that the place was a haven for her during her schooling days. “I would get excited to visit the library every two weeks. I feel attached to the library.”

The place can offer so much for the children, she said, it just needs a bit of support from the agency looking after it. “Why not have volunteers to arrange the shelves, sell old books, organise storytelling events or invite authors for a book talk?”

Damchoe said, “The library is asking for a change, a new face. Hopefully, in the next decade, the library will see some changes.”