One of the stories that’s come up several times in the news in Thailand recently is Korea’s public library campaign. In a world where every other country is in economic shut-down, and the UK and USA are having to fight to keep public libraries open and staffed, South Korea is perhaps unique – they are planning to build 180 new public libraries in the next four years. To me that’s so much the polar opposite of everything every other country is doing that I feel the need to repeat it; 180 new public libraries in the next four years! And not only that, but, as they specify in this news article, they’re also actively increasing the number of librarians in public libraries.
This a credit to the Korean governement, but it is also of note to many other countries in SE Asia, as S Korea is seen as forging ahead in terms of technology. Many would say that in the 1970s, S Korea and Thailand were effectively equals in terms of technology and modernisation. Today, the consensus is that Thailand is behind by about ten years. So not only do we have a country investing in public libraries for a change, but it’s a country acknowledged in the global region to be storming ahead with technology! So maybe Thailand, with no real public library system even pretending to exist, might feel the urge to take the hint.
One of the few things I don’t like about working in Thailand is that I’m working in an expensive school providing a great library service to families who can buy books regularly without difficulty, whilst the majority of Thai children will not get access to a good library service, either public or at school. If there was an international school in South Korea, on the other hand, I could set my conscience at ease, and also have no shortage of libraries to visit – it’s tempting, even before I’ve seen a job advertised!