A quinquagenarian university lecturer has run on his own a free library with almost 10,000 books and magazines in central Vietnam for 10 years to instill a reading interest in local students and encourage needy kids to pursue their education.
The Hoa Cuong Library in Ha Tinh Province was built in 2004 on Dr. Nguyen Quang Cuong’s own fund of VND400 million (US$18,827 now).
Dr. Cuong, a lecturer at Quy Nhon University in Binh Dinh Province, some 700km south of Ha Tinh, built the library in his poor hometown to nurture locals and students’ reading interest and satisfy their thirst for knowledge and information.
His library, which is large enough to seat 100 readers at one time and boasts some 10,000 books and magazines of various categories, is open gratis to local residents and students on a daily basis.
Readers are also instructed by volunteer teachers at the library how to select books and make the most of reading.
To keep his books and magazines updated, Dr. Cuong often buys and sends home new publications, and calls on individuals and organizations nationwide to donate books.
The lecturer’s library also has links with the provincial library to exchange books on a regular basis.
Dang Ngoc Thanh, an official of Loc Ha District’s An Loc Commune, where the library is located, highly appreciates Dr. Cuong’s efforts in maintaining the library by covering all expenses, handing out books and stationery to needy students, and sponsoring local meetings and cultural exchanges.
Leaders of An Loc and adjacent communes observed that Dr. Cuong’s library has hugely boosted local students’ reading activity and school performance.
In the past years, the communes have had larger numbers of successful university entrance exam takers, and prize winners at provincial academic aptitude contests.
More students have won prizes at national and international creativity competitions.
Local parents are also happy that their children have a wholesome recreational venue, while needy ones are partly relieved of the burden to cover their children’s expenses for books and learning kits.
Nguyen Thi Hien, 52, who is sickly and one of An Loc Commune’s poorest households, shared that thanks to Dr. Cuong’s library and aid, her youngest daughter recently passed the entrance exam into a top university in Hanoi.
Before the library was founded, her elder children had to quit school at an early age.
Nguyen Trong Thuy, a disadvantaged eighth grader, said that he began following his elder brother to Dr. Cuong’s library four years ago, where he voraciously read science books.
The books opened a new horizon for the boy and imparted to him an insatiable yearning for scientific inventions.
Thuy proudly shared that his electricity-saving LED model won the second prize at the National Science and Technology Innovation Contest for Youth in 2012.
The model also earned him a gold medal at the International Exhibition for Young Inventors contest that took place in Malaysia in May 2013.
Dr. Cuong is happy about what his library has done to help local students, but his main concern now is how to run the library for the next 20-30 years.
“I could have invested that VND400 million in real estate, and would reap profits by now, instead of building the Hoa Cuong Library. However, I understand that the library is of immense value to local youth, as during my school years, my peers and I were in such bad need of books and magazines. I really don’t want today’s kids to suffer that scarcity,” Dr. Cuong shared.
The academic also grew up in sheer poverty. When Dr. Cuong was in the seventh grade some 40 years ago, Le Trong Truong – his teacher then – learned that his parents were about to force him to give up on schooling due to overwhelming financial difficulties.
In Vietnam, children start the first grade at six.
Truong then encouraged the little boy Cuong to read more and be steadfast in pursuing his education to the end.
The young boy would then read from his teacher’s bookshelves, with some hundred books, every day.
“There were times when I was on the brink of giving up on the Hoa Cuong Library, but the students’ passion for reading and schooling efforts just spurred me on,” Dr. Cuong revealed.