Building the Library: Builders and Users of Vietnamese Libraries (1887-1986)

Dissertation research summary

Cindy A. Nguyen

Ph.D. Candidate, History Department University of California, Berkeley

Research Questions

  • What is the history of Vietnamese 'public' libraries during the political regime changes of the 20th century?

  • How do libraries demonstrate the relationship among:

    • the state (colonial, post-colonial)

    • the public (reading preferences)

    • education, language, and literacy

    • ideas about modernity, access to knowledge, civil society

Archival Sources

  • Official reports from libraries and the government
  • Library statistics of readers, borrowing numbers, purchases
  • Newspapers, periodicals
  • Library catalogs, borrowing records, book purchases

Research Schedule

  • Part 1 Hanoi: French colonial Indochina 1887-1945 Central Library/Pierre Pasquier, libraries in North Vietnam (TTLT1, TVQG)

Part 1

1887-1945

Research Schedule

  • Part 1 Hanoi: French colonial Indochina 1887-1945 Central Library/Pierre Pasquier, libraries in North Vietnam (TTLT1, TVQG)
  • Part 2 Hanoi: Democratic Republic of Vietnam 1945-1975, National Library of Vietnam, libraries in North, Socialist libraries and context of war (TTLT3)
  • Part 3 HCMC: French colonial Indochina 1887-1945, Libary of Saigon, libraries in South Vietnam (TTLT2, TTLT4)
  • Part 4 HCMC: Republic of Vietnam 1945-1975, National Library of South Vietnam (TVKHTH)
  • Part 5 Hanoi & HCMC: 1975-1986 post war centralization of libraries

Layers of Analysis

  1. Official: State (French Colonial Indochina) and regional libraries (state curation and control of reading matter)
  2. Associations: Organization and village libraries (civil society, self-help, improvement associations)
  3. Commercial: Reading lists, bookstores, printers, subscription library (literacy, vulgarisation/popularization, spreading quốc ngữ)

Builders

  • state officials, administrators, librarary personnel
  • --> state and cultural projects to control and disseminate knowledge
  • -->symbol of state power and modernity

Users

  • diverse readers (educated elite, administrators, provincial students)
  • --> reading practices, literary preferences, political leanings, language and literacy
  • -->movement of self-learning/popular education

To move beyond a history of institutions, I demonstrate how libraries are created by different historical actors and ideologies:

1. Official: State (French Colonial Indochina) and regional libraries

  • 1907: La bibliotheque franco-annamite du Protectorat (franco-annamite de vulgarisation) (Hanoi)

  • 1907: Bibliotheque de la Saigon

  • 1917: Bibliothèque Centrale/ Bibliothèque Pierre Pasquier (Hanoi)

Central Library

  • Founded in Hanoi in 1917, part of centralization of libraries and archives in Indochina
  • Paul Boudet, director
  • Largest collection of books, serials through legal deposit, purchases, donations

Central Library: Users

  • 1929, the number of French and Vietnamese readers equal
  • 1930 and onwards, the number of Vietnamese readers would surpass the number of French readers and more than double by 1937-1941

Central Library: Users

2. Associations: Organization and village libraries

  • 1865: Bibliotheque de le societe des etudes indochinoises

  • 1913: Bibliotheque de l'association des amis du vieux Hue

  • 1933: Arras Street Reading Room (Saigon)

  • 1935: Bibliotheque de l'association franco-annamite du Nghe An

  • 1936: Bibliotheque de la ligue des Amis de l'Annam

  • 1937: Association des “Travailleurs du Livre du Tonkin” (Bắc kỳ Ấn công Ái hữu hội)

Association of Workers of the Book of Tonkin - 1937

  • Goal 1: to develop the artistic tastes and intellectual capacity of its members, open up reading rooms, build libraries, open classes for professional development.
  • Goal 2: to come to the help if possible, of members of the Association when their family are victims of misfortune

3. Commercial: Reading lists, bookstores, printers, subscription libraries

  • 1920: bibliotheque en gare de Haiphong (newspapers, books, tabacco)

  • 1934: Nam Ký (printer, publisher, bookstore, library) Hanoi

    • Bibliothèque de Prêt “Nam Ky”

    • Bibliothèque scolaire Franco-Annamite

Nam Ky Bookstore & Subscription Library - 1930's

Tràng An báo, Số 877, 18 Tháng Mười 1941, TVQG

What story does the library tell?

  • national institution - essential, symbolic, change over time

  • intersection of state and commercial

  • shaped and is shaped by the concepts of

    • public, public sphere, popular tastes

    • education, self-learning

  • embodies

    • utopic visions of control, organization, and spread of information and knowledge

    • archive of literary and publishing history

So what?

  • Information as objects (material, books, collections)

  • Economics of the national library - disseminate and preserve information

  • Universal standards and recognition

  • State legitimacy

Appendix

  • FRENCH

    • connaissance (knowledge, understanding, familiarity),  renseignement (intelligence, details)

    • informations, données (data, facts)

  • VIETNAMESE

    • tin tức (news), tài liệu (document, data); kiến thức (knowledge, understanding, learning)

    • sự cung cấp tin tức (act of supplying news); sự thông tin (act of supplying information)

"Information"

  • FRENCH

    • connaissance (knowledge, understanding, familiarity),  renseignement (intelligence, details)

    • informations, données (data, facts)

  • VIETNAMESE

    • tin tức (news), tài liệu (document, data); kiến thức (knowledge, understanding, learning)

    • sự cung cấp tin tức (act of supplying news); sự thông tin (act of supplying information)

Post-colonial: Republic of Vietnam (S)

"The Starving National Library" "Tìm Hiểu" by Phan Lam Huong  1972

  • overflowing, disorderly materials without proper organization capacity (staff, money, technology)

  • goal: improve technologies, increase collection of "international newspapers in order to develop the nation" increase services to support readers to the level of other foreign countries (thus, will send libraries to be trained abroad)

Post-colonial: Democratic Republic of Vietnam (N)

"Libraries in the Service of Science and Technology" in Librarians for Social Change 1972 by Nguyen Quang Hy

  • need for "knowledge" for the people

    • "...storehouse of materials. They are places which store wisdom and circulate knowledge of every aspect of mankind, in this country and abroad; all the knowledge of days past as well as that of today."

  • provide materials (of science and technology) as well as ideological education and diffusion of knowledge

  • national library= integrated scientific library, 300,000 volumes

  • economically viable and efficient

  • need: coordination of materials, finding foreign materials

  • COLONIAL

    • encylopedic library

    • danger of ignorance, importance of organized knowledge

  • POST-COLONIAL

    • distribute scientific knowledge

    • importance of information technology, foreign aid, strengthen nation

Justifications for libraries

“The plan should give immediate attention to the priority unification of the National Library and the General Library into a single, strong entity that will serve both as focal point of the National effort, and demonstration laboratory for improved systems and procedures.

- 1966 US Management Services report

 

Building the Library: Builders and Users of the Vietnamese Libraries (1887-1986)

By Cindy A. Nguyen

Building the Library: Builders and Users of the Vietnamese Libraries (1887-1986)

A research summary of the Ph.D. in history dissertation of Cindy A. Nguyen

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