Librarian to travel to Nepal to spread the word on libraries | ParkRecord.com
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Librarian to travel to Nepal to spread the word on libraries

Books are a lot like people: They need to be held and the good ones you take to bed with you.

What would life be like if you couldn’t curl up with a weathered copy of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" or "Jane Eyre"?

Park City Library Director Linda Tillson plans to find out when she travels to a place where few are allowed to borrow books from the library.

Her three-week goodwill trip to Park City’s sister library in Dharan, Nepal, this December will include a tour of the The Late Poet Bimal Gurung Memorial Library, meetings with public officials and a tour of the country.

She says the No. 1 goal for her excursion to this developing country in South Asia is to be an ambassador for books. "It’s going to give us a chance to see the library and assess what kinds of things could really work there," she said. "It’s hard from a distance to tell how its going."

The library partnership started in 2004 and has included mailing hundreds of used books to the Bimal Library, sponsoring an intern, Rohit Rai, to work in the Park City Library for a month, and a book-swapping program.

The Park City Library sends far more books to Bimal than it receives, but it has garnered a handful of cookbooks, travel guides and novels from the partnership. These books, published in towns such as Kathmandu, are volumes the Park City Library would not otherwise offer in circulation. "I thought the idea sounded interesting from the start," Tillson said. "I wasn’t sure what the benefit would be for us, but I knew we could help a library that didn’t have the same resources as we did."

Park City local Jim Powell is the man behind the mission. He’s out to change the disparity between well-funded libraries in the United States and those in this third-world country wedged between China and India. He spearheaded the partnership four years ago between the Park City Library and the Bimal Library after he visited the country.

As the Record reported in 2005, Powell served in the 10th Mountain Division in Italy during World War II with a group of Gurkha soldiers from Nepal. Powell was so impressed with the Gurkhas that later in his life, long after the war, he traveled to Dharan, the town from which many of the Gurkhas hail. In Dharan, he met Kaylan Rai’s family (no relation to the library intern Rohit Rai) and came across the library.

Kaylan Rai, a painter by trade, now lives in Park City and says his family has been among those to benefit from the partnership with Park City.

For women, a good library can mean the difference between enjoying books and not reading at all.

Powell, who is paying for Tillson and her husband to make the trek, wants to assess the feasibility of installing computers and providing English literacy programs to children in the Nepal, where more than half the population speaks and reads English.

He envisions more book-sharing, pen-pals, and, importantly, a library in which patrons can take books, CDs and DVDs home with them. "In the U.S. we’re so used to the concept of a free public library," Tillson said, but libraries elsewhere in the world require memberships that limit the number of people who can view a library’s collection.

The difference in library services offered in Park City and Bimal is vast. The Park City Library boasts 60,000 volumes available for its 8,000 residents. The Bimal Library offers just 5,000 books for 50,000 people.

Library circulation numbers are important because they reflect the distribution of information in a society, Tillson said, and libraries offer the possibility of education for everyone regardless of class, race or ethnicity.

Powell chose to send Tillson to Nepal for another important reason: Because she is a woman. "Male chauvinism is still entrenched [in Nepal]," he said. "I want to show people that there is hope and that there are changes going on."

Tillson, who is tall and thin with blonde hair, will likely cut a striking figure in Nepal, both with city officials and passersby. She plans to visit rural schools and meet with organizers from the Room to Read program, a nonprofit based in San Francisco founded by former Microsoft employee John Wood. It is dedicated to building education infrastructure in developing countries to end the cycle of poverty.


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