July 5, 2012
MSU Billings library collects 150 cases of books for donation to Myanmar
Brent Roberts, MSU Billings Library, 657-1655
Bill Cochran, Parmly Billings Library, 657-8292
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — The packed boxes on the first floor of the Montana State University Billings Library may give the impression the library is on the cusp of a big move.
The library isn’t moving, but its knowledge is about to take a journey.
More than 150 cases of donated and low-circulation books will be shipped out to Myanmar next week as part of a statewide effort to feed the intellectual hunger of the citizens of that country as it moves to a more open and democratic society. The donation to Myanmar libraries is made possible through a cooperative project between Nargis Library Recovery (NLR) and the Montana Library Association.
Nargis Library Recovery (NLR) Executive Director John Badgley, a Missoula native and retired professor from Cornell University, is helping to assist in the rebuilding of libraries destroyed in Cyclone Nargis in 2008. Badgley, a longtime Burma scholar, will be picking up books throughout Montana during the second week of July and will deliver them to a warehouse in Auburn, Wash., for sorting and transshipment to Myanmar, where the Myanmar Book and Preservation Foundation will distribute them to libraries in the Irrawaddy Delta and throughout the country.
Among the infrastructure casualties are more than 1,000 village libraries and many school libraries.
This year’s effort to fill the library need half a world away started in June and libraries across Montana pooled efforts to help the cause, said Brent Roberts, director of the MSU Billings library. Bill Cochran, director of the Parmly Billings Library, got on board early in the process and is the local liaison for the NLR effort. The local effort will include contributions from MSU Billings, Parmly Billings Library and the Rocky Mountain College library.
Over the past few weeks, staff at libraries from Whitefish to Livingston to Great Falls and Billings have been gathering donated items and sorting through out-of-circulation books for shipment to Myanmar. As of this week, the MSU Billings Library had gathered the most items, totaling more than 150 cases.
Roberts said many of the donated books were culled from low-circulation areas of the library's collection.
“We are always in the process of updating our collections, and we were so excited to hear about the Myanmar project,” he said. "We're happy that these books will have a new home."
Craig Lowman, a recent MSU Billings graduate who earned his history degree with a teaching option, said he was glad to see a large cross-section of materials.
“We were able to send them eight boxes of kids’ books,” Lowman said. “That was nice to see.”
On May 3, 2008, Cyclone Nargis made a devastating sweep across the Irrawaddy delta in Myanmar (formerly called Burma), passing directly over Yangon. No natural disaster has taken so many lives or destroyed so much habitation in Myanmar.
This event resulted in 135,000 dead or missing and rendered an estimated 800,000 people homeless. Additionally, large areas of the country experienced huge infrastructure, housing and agricultural damage that will take years to repair.
In spite of its poverty, Myanmar has thousands of small community libraries in addition to 150 college and university libraries. The citizens there have a value for reading, supported and encouraged by their history and culture.
To find out more or to donate cash to help with shipping costs, go to www.nargislibrary.org.
PHOTO ABOVE: MSU Billings student-workers who have helped in the Nargis Library Recovery project for Myanmar, include, from left, Craig Lowman, recent graduate with a degree in history with a teaching option; Celesta Rowland, a junior majoring in business management and public relations; Brittany Feiler, a senior psychology major; and Shar Lantz, a senior elementary education major. More than 150 cases of books were collected and packaged at the MSU Billings library for donation to Myanmar.