Many readers will have seen various stories in the media about the failures of the education system in Thailand. The royalist-run universities do poorly when compared with peer institutions everywhere else. Elementary and secondary education is way behind most other places, populated by sometimes dull and nasty teachers who enforce notions of hierarchical Thainess over education. And so on.
So it was that there was some jubilation that one of the first new libraries in the capital, หอสมุดเมืองกรุงเทพมหานคร Bangkok City Library. At 4,880 sqm, it is the largest of the capital’s 36 public libraries. It opened last Friday:
[the] three-story library opened its doors in Bangkok’s old town Friday with tens of thousands of books and a lending service expected to launch in three weeks.
At the Bangkok City Library on Ratchadamnoen Road, Thais and foreigners alike can peruse more than 41,000 volumes. When the lending service launches April 28, it will only be available to Thai nationals.
Junta-appointed governor, Pol. Gen Aswin Kwanmuang was effusive when he presided over the opening: “Come on and check it out…. Your brains will become filled with knowledge! The library is for everyone, not just students.”
But, wait. It turns out that it was, perhaps, maybe, a sort of “soft opening.”
Khaosod reports that “[l]ess than 24 hours after opening with much fanfare, Bangkok’s largest public library shut its door and will not open again for three weeks.” Huh?
The management of the new library issued a statement that the closure is because “it needs to prepare its facility to host a royal visit by Princess Sirindhorn, who will attend the library’s formal opening ceremony on April 28.”
Three weeks of preparations for the portly princess!
The one-day opening was, the library bosses now say, a “system test.”
The facility was built at a cost of nearly 900 million baht, about 300 million of which was used for construction and maintenance, while the rest was paid to lease the land from the Crown Property Bureau. Its budget for book acquisition was set at 5 million baht, and officials said they’re still accepting book donations.
Books = 5/900 million baht (0.56%)
Crown Property Bureau = 595/900 million baht (66.11%)