Thanks to the generosity of Australians, who have so far donated several thousand books, the first Uni-bridge Community Library is almost ready for Indonesian children to use.
Teachers in the Uni-bridge Community Library at Bandung. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
On my recent trip to Bandung, Indonesia (July 2010) to meet with English teachers, I had my first peek at the library. The English teachers, who also saw it for the first time, rushed with wide-eyed wonder to inspect the books.
JB with English teachers in the Uni-bridge Community Library at Bandung, Indonesia. (Click on image to enlarge.)
The transportation of the books, the labels and the staff for the library are all being paid for by Uni-bridge Australia. Despite the costs Uni-bridge is committed to providing the books as a free resource for local children, thus honouring the generosity of Australians who have donated the books, and in many cases their time in packing the books ready for transportation.
One of the donated books with the label that appears on all the donated books.
Each book carries a label that reads: A gift from Australia to Indonesia via Uni-bridge with best wishes.
I found out that in Indonesia lending libraries are often called ‘reading gardens’ so I guess that means Australia is sending flowers to Indonesia. I like that!
It all started in 2009 when, during a visit to Indonesia sponsored by Uni-Bridge Australia, I saw an article in the Jakarta Post about a community library project called Cilebut Children Community Library. Small gazebos or news-stand size community libraries had been set up around Jakarta in an effort to provide Indonesian kids with free access to books and nurture reading habits in the community. All books were donated and the stands were managed by volunteers. What touched my heart in the article was the story of a fourth-grader called Billy who raced to his gazebo library after school only to find there were no new books and he had read all the books the library had to offer – they only hold around 150 books and magazines.
As an impoverished kid growing up in the Australian bush I spent many hours scouring the local rubbish tip for books to read and I feel an affinity for kids who do not have access to books. So, with Billy’s disappointment tugging at my heart strings I approached Sugie Hambali, of Uni-bridge Australia, with the idea of sending books from Australia to Indonesia. He was very enthusiastic and indicated Uni-bridge would meet the costs of transporting the books.
I posted notices to various librarian chat rooms, with the help of Stephen Spillard at Dandenong Library. I thought perhaps some Australian libraries could donate 10 or 20 books from their book sale items. How wrong I was! The generous librarians donated hundreds of books from their deleted books stock. I was gobsmacked and overjoyed. Their generosity was matched by individuals and families who piled books, magazines and language tapes into the boot of my car and onto my doorstep.
Initially we intended sending the books to schools that would make them available to local children. However, there have been some concerns about this idea and instead we have set up a library at the Uni-bridge offices in Bandung. Children who attend English classes at Uni-bridge will have regular free access to the books and the local schools will be invited to bring groups of children to the Uni-bridge Community Library. Hopefully, we will be able to extend access to other local children as the project gets established. Of course, Indonesian kids need books in the Indonesian language but Indonesians are also mindful of the need for their young people to acquire English skills so these books in English will be extremely useful and valued.
The Uni-bridge Community Library is not yet operating as a lending library. The concept of lending libraries is not an established part of Indonesian culture and there are fears that the books may not ‘boomerang’ (return to the library).
The reaction of Indonesian people involved in the project has been one of joy and sincere appreciation, bringing home to me how lucky we are in Australia and how lucky I was to be born here. Even though my early library was at the local rubbish tip it was an endless treasure chest.
This is an ongoing project; please contact us if you wish to donate books. Click on ‘Contact’ button at the top of the page.