“… Building my habit of learning and growing,
Asking and researching till I reach knowing.
Here I’ve been a mermaid and an elf
I’ve even learned to be more myself.
I think that I shall never see
A place that’s been more useful to me.
With encouraging kind friends with wit
Who tell me to dream big and never quit.
It’s only a room with shelves and books,
but it’s far more magical than it looks.” – Varda One
There is no other poet that I feel quit strikes the value of books and libraries in learning like Varda One’s My Library.
Over the past few years of the project’s establishment in the village, Cipaganti, we have acquired a decent collection of literature at the field station. From fiction novels to scientific articles to field guides and children’s books, reading material has been regularly left behind and donated by volunteers and staff, both past and present. Our collection had grown large enough that we decided it needed a proper ‘home’ where it could be easily accessed, and chose our volunteer room. The volunteer room is arguably the busiest room, where most of us spend our time. We use this room for team meetings, socializing, and even doing work. This room also has a front door, which is our main entrance to the house and is always open during the day. Grazing the back wall of this room is a set of stairs with a little nook carved out underneath with shelves. These shelves have been relatively barren since a recent full-house spring cleaning, and it seemed the perfect home for our collection – not just because it is a cozy nook, but because it is the first thing you see when you open the main door.
Deciding to organize the library by category, I immediately (and gladly) dove into the assortment, skimming each piece of literature, accompanied by the melodic melodies of David Bowie (as you do). I divided the contents of scientific journal articles by various research topics; field biology methods from primatology to entomology; field guides for each of the Indonesian islands; leisure novels from fiction to biographies; children’s books for various ages; and the most inspiring of all, reports and dissertation outputs from previous researchers and volunteers who worked with the project. Going through all of these was overwhelmingly exciting, but the most beautiful thing about it—the entire catalogue is made up of various languages, displaying the diversity of people we have joined the project, including Indonesian, German, English and French. It was like going through a rainbow of cultures, printed in black and white.
After only having set up the library last night, we already saw people interested in it this morning. Some of the children who regularly visit us on their way home from school came by, calling to us from the front door. As I went to say hello, one boy was staring at the library glaring back at him. I had tried to arrange the library as best as I could to display the diversity of contents and languages to attract all ages and topics, and it seemed to be effective for the children. These kids had originally been asking to draw and color, but now asked if they could read a book the was propped up, front and center in Bahasa Indonesian: Kukang: Sang Penjaga Hutan ( Slow Loris: Forest Protector). Unable to resist any reading session, I abandoned my spontaneous cleaning spree, and joined them. Enjoying this moment, I couldn’t help but reflect what a beneficial learning process this was for the both of us – them to practice their reading, and me to practice my Indonesian. After finishing this book, they requested to read one after the other.
I have always been a regular at my local libraries, and I truly believe it is one of the most beneficial things for learning and growth. I only hope that our library will continue to grow and the news will continue to spread, that our library is open for all to use. Who knows – if days like today continue, we may need to start a Klub Buku (book club)! Because as Diane Duane once said, “Reading one book is like eating one potato chip”. It just doesn’t happen.
- Katie Reinhardt, PhD Researcher