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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mobile book library runs out of gas

Mobile book library runs out of gas

The government's mobile library van has been garaged in central Phnom Penh for more

than two months, stranded by a lack of petrol.

The library typically serves primary schools and wats across Dangkor, Meanchey and

Russey Keo districts, providing books to students, monks and city dwellers, but a

shortage of gasoline has stopped the wheels, and the pages, turning since June.

Hun Sarin, director of the Department of Books and Reading, says the Ministry of

Culture and Fine Art is responsible for providing gasoline for the van every month.

"I do not know what the problem is inside the ministry now," Sarin said

August 2. "I have just called the ministry this morning to ask for diesel; if

they do not have gasoline, we can sell the diesel to buy gasoline."

"They said they will see," Sarin said of the ministry's response, but as

of August 11 the mobile library remained garaged.

Khuon Chamroeun, deputy director of the Department of Books and Reading, said the

truck used to be greeted by hundreds of students as well as monks and other citizens

whenever it traveled to the suburbs.

While schools often have their own libraries, aside from the classroom texts many

of them lack books and periodicals, Cham-roeun said.

The mobile library, however, is filled with books on subjects as diverse as fairy

tales, history and entertainment, as well as journals and magazines. Before running

out of gas, the library travelled between the three Phnom Penh districts every weekday.

The French government donated the truck and some of the first books in 1995; Queen

Monineath and the German government provided the rest of the books and magazines.

France also pays a monthly bonus to supplement the salaries of the four Cambodian

civil servants in the Department of Books and Reading.

Through this and other initiatives, libraries have been making a gradual comeback

since the Khmer Rouge years.

According to Chamroeun, a report released in 2003 said there were now 60 libraries

and 25 document centers throughout Cambodia, most of them in Phnom Penh.

But Khlot Vibolla, director of the National Library near Wat Phnom, says a more recent

survey, which has not been completed yet, points to at least 80 libraries in Phnom

Penh alone.

The National Library contains about 100,000 books in Khmer, English, French and German,

said Vibolla. About 20,000 of these are books that survived the Pol Pot regime. Most

of the books relate to culture, religion and history.

The National Library was closed in 2002 after part of the ceiling collapsed, but

reopened early last year. It now caters to college students, civil servants and foreign

researchers, with 2,750 people visiting in the first six months of 2005, Vibolla

said.

Other modern, air-conditioned libraries in Phnom Penh include the Hun Sen Library

at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, the Senate Library at the Senate, the Buddhism

Library at the Buddhist Institute, and the library of the Cambodia Development Resource

Institute (CDRI).

About 500 people visit the Hun Sen Library daily, while the Senate Library and the

CDRI library each receive about 50 visitors per day.

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