Monday, November 2, 2009

National Library of Thailand

National Library of Thailand
“The National Library of Thailand was created in 1905 as part of a merge of three pre-existing libraries. Materials were spread all over the country and the King of Thailand felt that a National Library was an important and dignified institution”(National Library of Thailand, 2009).
A variety of materials were collected and relocated in the new National Library of Thailand. The National Library is currently operated by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. The National library has six departments: reference services, audio-visual material, Library resource development, ancient languages, library information centre, library specialist group, and administration.

Thailand is a country embedded with tradition, but recently has become a newly industrialized country. This is very apparent as The National Library of Thailand has an eclectic mix of contemporary and traditional features. It is common to see computer terminals next to a card index system. Thailand has relied on a rote system of education instead of a student-based methodology. Also education is compulsory until grade 9, but is available until grade12. Over the years, the National Library has played a large role in the development of education. “The education reform is a slow process and as a result an eclectic system is present within the Library”(Silakorn, 2004).

The national language is Thai, but with the increase in tourism over the last 30 years Basic English is spoken among most Thai people. “The majority of books and periodicals are in Thai, but other languages available are English, Chinese, and Korean. The national Library is equipped with OPAC terminals throughout that can be viewed in both English and Thai”(Limskul, 2008). Data search rooms are available with computer terminals and internet access. Games, online chat, and USB devices are not allowed. Although you are able to search for books, thesis, and journals online, the collection is rather limited. Their library catalog page shows 80,000 people have visited the site since January 2008 and their currently monthly viewers are 4,000. The library materials include periodicals, magazines, maps, photographs, ancient history, religion, social science, and science texts. The Library currently does not have any electronic materials available. The majority of materials are in print and related to Thai culture.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with a constitution that was written in 1997. The King is still praised, but no longer runs the government. Although the constitution grants free speech, the country still has a lese majeste law. This law states that if you insult the Royal Family, you can receive a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. This can be enforced on print or electronic material. Over 2,000 websites have been shut down by the government. “Recently an Australian author was released from jail after his book, Verismlitude, insulted the King”(2009). The interesting thing is that the book is currently available in the National Library, under the English Fiction section.

Questions to Consider
The National Library of Thailand’s vision statement is “A landmark for students, researchers, and general users to consult when they need additional knowledge and information.”
Is the National Library of Thailand able following their Vision statement?
Also are they servicing the needs of their patrons and how?

Even though the country has a strong tradition of censorship, do you feel that the National Library of Thailand would welcome the ALA Library Bill of rights and honor them on a daily basis?.

AP (2009). Writer Jailed for Alleged Thai Monarchy Insult Retrieved 10/14/2009, 2009, from
Limskul, O. (2008). Country Report. Paper presented at the 35th Conference of Directors of National Libraries.
National Library of Thailand (2009). Retrieved 10/14/2009, 2009, from
Silakorn, P. (2004, 2005). News from the National Library of Thailand. CDNLAO Newsletter Retrieved 10/14/2009, 2009, from


Craig Buno said...

The National Library of Thailand’s vision statement of “A landmark for students, researchers, and general users to consult when they need additional knowledge and information.” I believe that they are following their vision statement because this landmark library is slowly collecting resources, however it appears to be putting limits on the students, researchers, and general users quest for knowledge in not having many electronic sources. It is really strange to me that they can not use USB devices to save data from the computer. Which almost appears that they do not want you to be able to leave with this information but only use it in the library where they can see what you are doing with it.
Furthermore with Thailand just approving a constitution in 1997 and the king not controlling all aspects of the country it may take another decade or two for the government to loosen the choke hold on knowledge.

Amy Alcenius said...

I think that such a new system of government will have some very interesting politics. The new system is probably less inhibiting, but I would think there is still a fair ammount of censoring.

Nicole Lesperance said...

In asking whether or not the National Library of Thailand could uphold the ideals of the ALA, I would have to say no. The ALA has a very strong stand on censorship and intellectual freedom, and I'm afraid that the views of this particular culture would never allow for it.
"Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation."
This statement is something that would go against the grain of this libraries ideals, and even American libraries may find themselves struggling to keep up with this thought structure, without having serious damage control after the fact. It would be even more difficult for the Thai people to make the great leap into freedom of speech and ideas.

Dianne said...

Regarding their vision statement, they can only follow the statement so far before the government steps in but the amazing part is that they are trying. While they may have a long difficult journey to truly be able to really employ their vision, they are doing what they can within the boundries set.
Each new ruler will bring a fresh perspective to world views and hopefully one of them will do away with the lese majeste law.
Great job on blog.

Adrianne said...

The National Library of Thailand does not meet their vision statement if they freely censor any material that might directly or indirectly insult the Royal Family. Yes, students, researchers and general users may consult this library when they need knowledge and information, but when that information is censored as it is, what they are getting is biased. If the country truly did grant free speech, they would not still be able to have a lese majeste law. Welcome to the 21st century, people should be able to say, read, think and express what they feel. Are things always nice and sugar coated? Probably not, but it is still up to whomever chooses to read this information to form their own educated opinion. Censoring this type of information that could be vital to one’s research is not creating a vision of allowing patrons to receive additional knowledge and information.

William Zunich said...

Craig, I could not find reasons as to why they do not allow patrons to use USB. I sent an email and have not heard back yet. A relative who lives there said he does feel that it is in relation to censorship. Also the National Library has a variety of visitors from numerous countries.

The intresting thing is that the citizens love the King there. He is older; in his 70s I beleive. The countries standard of living has increased dramaticly over his tenure. Perhaps the nexst King will be open to changes.

Sarah said...

Evolution of society and rights can be a brutal process full of growing pains, as evidenced by America's history as well. In America there were dark times in our history and having to do with our national libraries. For instance, we have learned about banned books and library professionals who faced persecution for standing up for the free speech and freedom to read. In this context it's easy to understand how hard it is for Thailands' libraries in their current social climate.

The strides the libraries are making seem to be a step toward freedom for the patrons of Thailand even if they aren't perhaps living up to the full ideal of their vision statment. Perhaps in time they will make even more strides to provide access to information and technology to their patrons.