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'Happy library' brings books to Hung Yen residents

A young man in the northern province of Hung Yen has built a free library to promote a culture of reading in his local community.

Hoang Quang Khai’s small library has started a kind of entertainment for local residents including children.

Hoang Quang Khai, 24, said he was inspired by a friend.

“A close friend of mine loves books so much, so I came up with the idea of setting up a small library at home so people in the locality can come and read books,” he said. 

“I think it will be helpful to society. And more importantly, I recognise that I am thirsty for knowledge.”

However, Khai said he faced a lot of difficulties to get his idea off the ground, including opposition from his parents.

“I am lucky as I still got assistance from my uncles and friends who either lent money or contributed labour to build the library.”

Due to a lack of funding, Khai created his library step by step.

To save costs, he did everything himself from designing, purchasing materials, decorations and arrangement.

After completing his military service in 2016, Khai was working for JP Corelex Co.Ltd – a Japanese company specialising in producing pulp and paper located in Pho Noi A Industrial Zone in Van Lam District. He worked on his passion project after working hours.

Once the preparations were nearly finished, Khai went to bookstores in Hanoi to choose books for the library.

Khai’s diligent and meticulous work over 10 months paid off as the library was completed in June last year. It was named 'Happy Library'.

Although the library is 16sq.m, it looks bigger and is always filled with natural light thanks to its large glass wall panels. He also installed an air conditioner to make reading on hot days comfortable.

Khai said the total investment for the library was VND120 million (US$5,100), double the initial estimate.

“I have spent all my salary for two years on it,” he said, adding that his monthly income was just VND5-7 million ($215-300).

“Sometimes I had to borrow money from my parents for my breakfasts or to buy petrol for my motorbike.”

As Khai works on weekdays, the library opens at the weekend. Most of the visitors are students.

High school students usually come to Khai’s library to read books and discuss about their lessons.

To date, he has collected about 800 titles which cover a wide variety of topics such as literature, history and geography, comics and textbooks.

In recognition of the library, many people have called Khai or sent messages to praise him. Some have contacted him to donate books.

As soon as a report on his library was aired on Vietnam Television (VTV), a woman from Hai Phong City, who wished to be anonymous, phoned him, saying she wanted to contribute books.

Khai thought she would donate a few dozen books, but she surprised him.

“To my surprise, the books that the women sent to me weighed more than 100kg. It was an encouragement for me to continue my work,” he said.

Helpful act

Khai’s library has been warmly welcomed by local people, particularly secondary and high school students.

Nguyen Thi Ngoc Anh, an 11th-grader from Van Lam High School, said she liked the library.

“There are books in many fields, suitable for many ages, neatly arranged and scientifically so it is very convenient for us to find and read our favourite books,” said.

Anh said she was fond of reading but only bought books that she needed for her studies due to being short of money.

“My house is 7km from the library but I often cycle to Khai’s library to borrow books.

“Here I can find a lot of books that I don’t have,” she said, adding that she was willing to share her books here as well.

Hoang Xuan Bach, a twelfth-grader, who lives near Khai’s house, said he and his friends often go to the library to study.

“Although Khai is a worker and his monthly salary is not high he spent time on his passion of bringing books to local residents by establishing a library," he said.

“I find the library helpful because when students come here they do not merely try to learn, they also spend time with their friends. We didn’t have any kind of entertainment, but the library has started a kind of entertainment for us.”

While there is an abundance of books in large cities, people in rural areas don’t have access partly because the prices are too high, Bach said

“This kind of library should be expanded in the province so that people could share books while saving money.”

For many people, it’s hard to believe that the library was set up by a young person who once did not have a passion for reading.

“I did not a strong passion for reading books. When I was a small child, I didn't pay attention to studying,” Khai recalled. 

Hoang Quang Khai enjoys reading books in his free time. Photos courtesy of Hoang Quang Khai

Khai quit his job at the company in June this year. He is learning yoga with the hope of becoming a yoga teacher. Khai admitted that it has been much easier thanks to reading books about yoga.

In the future Khai said he wants to collect more interesting books and set up a book reading club to meet the growing demand of readers.  VNS

Mai Hien

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