Archive for February 21st, 2012

Kabul Public Library

February 21, 2012 in Kabul Journals | Comments (8)






The library is a 1960s style building, modest but well-constructed. It was snowbound on this late February day and there were few readers present.


In the main reading room a charcoal-burning bukhari stove was being used to ward off the cold.









Some heating was certainly necessary since this was the view from the windows:










But it was not the only bukhari in the library, and it was unsettling to think of so many smouldering stoves in the midst of so much flammable material.







The library is said to have 220,000 books, of which 180,000 are in Farsi/Dari. Of the rest most are in English, French, German and Urdu.









‘Tarikh Inklistan’, a translation of a history of England, is one of the Urdu texts in the collection.












I was interested to see that it had been donated by Hyderabad’s Osmania University.


One of the librarians, Abd al Rahman has spent 35 years in the Library’s service. He worked there through the Taliban years. Although some books were burnt and destroyed the library stayed open through that time and he continued to receive his pay.









There is a small but cheerful children’s section.










It includes a displayof toys, complete with guitars and toy guns.












The card catalogue is in an unfortunate state.













There are plastic bottles in a drawer.









The entrance to the  Afghanistan section has a sign in English:














Mr Nisar Ahmed is in charge of this section.










The collection is not large but it contains many 19th and early 20th century books in English and other languages. This one is called ‘The Kafirs of the Hindu Kush’, and is not in bad shape despite the scribbles on the title page.















There are some fine collections of prints, including this one: ‘The Character and Costume of Afghaunistan’.












This print has the Bamiyan Buddhas in the background.










This is an illustration of Afghan military costumes and equipment.









This is the newspaper reading room.




The picture on the far wall is of Jalal al-din Rumi (‘Mawlana’).






The library has one small mobile unit:











The General Director of Public Libraries, Mr Abdul Humid Nabizada (far left)



and his staff do their best to cope under difficult circumstances. Even as we were speaking a reminder of this arrived in the form of a text message announcing a suicide bombing in Kandahar.

The building is badly run down but considering all that has happened in Afghanistan in the last thirty years, the library is in better shape than might be expected.


There is a great thirst for reading material in Afghanistan,











as is evident from the brisk business done by pavement booksellers in central Kabul.









A thriving public library would serve a real need. It is surprising that nobody from the world community has stepped in to help. Surely there are thousands of libraries across the world that could enter into partnerships with the Kabul Public Library?




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