Viet Nam News
by Chí An
The residents of Condo A3 in Hà Nội’s Nghĩa Tân Ward are familiar with a neat and lovely bookshelf in the lobby of the first floor in their building.
Since its establishment in 1999, the small library has become an interesting rendezvous for residents, enhancing their sense of community.
“The bookshelf offers just a few books and newspapers, but most of them are updated frequently,” says Bùi Thị Anh Tuấn, the manager of the small library.
“The elderly enjoy reading the Nhân Dân (The People) and Tiền Phong (The Vanguard) newspapers, while the children like the Chăm Học (Study) and Tuổi Trẻ Cười (Youth’s Satire) newspapers,” she adds.
Every morning, when the building resounds with the footsteps of people going to work, it is time for Tuấn and her husband to receive the day’s newspapers and to open the bookshelf, which has been their habit for years. Every newspaper is placed neatly on the tables, waiting to be read and carefully put away at the end of the day.
The idea for the library emerged on a hot summer day, after a conversation in the lobby between Trương Văn Côn, Tuấn’s husband and a former official of the ministry of national defence, and other retired residents.
Côn suggested turning unused space of the entrance hall into a place for communal activities - for residents to gather to read books, exchange experiences and enhance their sense of community. The idea was eagerly supported by the residents.
With the enthusiastic contribution of veterans, it didn’t take long to set up the small library. While carpenter Đoàn Trương voluntarily built furniture, veteran Hồ Quang Bảo took over management work. Other residents cleaned and rearranged the hall to make room for the new bookshelf.
In addition to the newspapers donated by various groups - like the local Association of War Veterans and the Study Promotion Society - each family in the building contributes to the budget regularly to purchase books and newspapers, enriching the library.
“I call for each family’s donation every three months. Donations range from VNĐ20,000-100,000 (US$1-5). On average, we collect over VNĐ 1 million ($45) quarterly. Each contribution is publicised clearly on the notice board,” says Tuấn.
“Each resident’s opinions on whether a newspaper is useful and suitable or not are also collected regularly. Newspapers deemed unsuitable are replaced by more appropriate ones”.
Young and old readers alike follow library rules strictly. All readers are responsible for taking care of the books and newspapers. Books are closed neatly after being read and put back where they belong. Each family also takes turns cleaning the library.
Residents of Condo A3 used to lock their doors after coming home and rarely communicated with each other. Now they are like members of an extended family, thanks to the small library.
“We gather in the lobby every New Year’s Eve. We sing together, talk about our sadness and happiness, and wish each other good luck in the coming years. Every dispute can therefore be resolved,” Côn says.
Pensioner Dương Văn Loan reads newspapers in the library every day, catching up with the news and chatting with other elders. Whenever he finds something interesting, he reads it out loud and discusses it with others.
“We all have TV and radio at home, but it is more interesting to read books and newspapers,” he says.
Tuấn often takes careful notes of treatments for diseases common among the elderly. She also keeps notes on culinary secrets, which she shares with others when they get together in the evening.
She says the library is also a place for women in the area to exchange confidences and to share experiences on how to handle daily issues like raising kids, work stress, or simple tricks to make food more delicious.
Adults and children enjoy reading at the library, instead of playing computer games or watching TV. The children behave well and enjoy access to educational information, while soaking up the knowledge of their elders.
Before the library was established, theft was common, Đoàn Trương, a resident, said. Bicycles and motorbikes were stolen. Rubbish was placed secretively in front of the building, affecting the community and environment.
But following the operation of the library, everyone became more aware of keeping the building clean and local security improved.
The success of Condo A3’s cultural community and library has been multiplied by 20 other apartment buildings within Nghĩa Tân.
The library has become an integral part of life for many people living in the building.
“We all miss the library if we cannot visit it every day, due to health problems or family work,” Tuấn says. VNS