As a country that had but one college in 1950, the decades that followed saw Nepal take some impressive strides in higher education. But, compared to the technical manpower it can now boast of, a considerable gap persists in the quality of social science education, especially at the higher levels. This gap can be said to have played a significant role in depriving the population of strong leadership in a host of sectors, from politics to academia, and social services to commerce. The ongoing social dislocations in Nepal can also be attributed to this lack of an aware, alert leadership.
Meanwhile, those with the opportunity to pursue higher studies or conduct high-quality research and writing find their potential severely limited by the lack of access to a resourceful library. It is a fact that over the years scant attention has been paid to the establishment and operation of libraries. This lack of informational resources is of particular concern to Nepal because a strong foundation built upon information and knowledge lies at the heart of any effort to develop a country and society.
The neglect of archives and repositories in Nepal is such that, far from establishing new ones, even the few public and private libraries established in earlier years have been running out of steam. In Kathmandu Valley, as well as in the towns of the midhills and Tarai, many libraries and reading rooms have closed down over the last decade, or remain only as ghosts of their former selves. By and large, students and scholars in Nepal do not even have access to the basic readings they need for their study and research. Thus, Nepal today remains one of the most deprived countries in terms of informational access which is critical for continued social, economic, and intellectual development.
At the most basic level, the lack of a valuable social science library stands as an obstacle before students and researchers studying the many disciplines of the social sciences. Scholars in Nepal are further constrained by their inability to locate the materials that would allow them to enhance and expand on their knowledge. While there are enough Nepali scholars with the skills to produce high-quality research, lack of access to appropriate literature generally keeps them from doing so effectively.
A range of libraries, archives, and reading rooms are urgently required in the urban and rural areas of the country. However, a beginning has to be made somewhere that is why the Social Science Baha has set up a library to cater to the needs of both students and researchers.
Social Science Baha
The Social Science Baha (‘Baha’ comes the Newari term for ‘Bihar’, the traditional monastic centres of learning of Kathmandu Valley) has been set up by those who believe that the study of the social sciences needs to be encouraged and facilitated in Nepal. The Baha conducts various activities among the Valley’s intellectual community such as sponsoring talks by scholars, hosting discussion programmes and other information- and knowledge-based activities. In keeping with its goal it is involved in the Immersion Course on Contemporary Social Issues, an intense four-month course in the social sciences for young professionals. The Baha’s priority, however, is the development of a well-stocked and efficiently managed social science library.
The Library is housed in a full-floor space next to the Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya in Patan Dhoka. This is a tall-ceilinged, airy space that is quiet, secure, and with full parking facilities. The Baha is well within a central urban space of Kathmandu Valley, and adjacent to the well-served bus stop at Patan Dhoka. When the Library is well-established, and should funds allow, the Library can be shifted to a dedicated, customised space.
Administrative support for the Social Science Baha is provided by Himal Association, the 13-year-old non-profit organisation involved in all aspects of bringing knowledge and information to the people of Nepal. Members of the Association are acutely aware of the lack of informational facilities in Nepal, which is why they are actively supporting the establishment of the Social Science Baha.
Besides providing the Baha with institutional continuity, Himal Association will also extend the assistance required in various arenas of library operation. The Association has already subsumed its own significant collection of books (compiled while it was publishing the Himalayan Himal magazine) within the new library. Further, as and when the Social Science Baha is able to branch out into archiving audio-visual material, the Association will consider placing its own significant collection of South Asian documentaries under the Baha’s care.
Library hours for the public will be from 12 noon till 7 pm on weekdays and from 1 pm to 5 pm on Saturdays. The library will remain closed on Mondays. Initially, the Library will solely be a reading and reference collection. There is a well-lit, comfortable reading room and access to the shelves is through the attending librarians. It will not operate on a lending basis.
A one-time membership fee will be charged as well as an annual library fee. These fees will be modest for individual members, while institutions will be asked to pay slightly higher rates.
The Social Science Baha will set up a trust fund to ensure the long-term viability of the Library. As the managing group, the Social Science Baha Committee, which consists of Kathmandu-based scholars, professionals and writers who feel strongly the lack of a good social science repository in Nepal, is responsible for collecting funds, the establishment of the Library’s book, journal, monograph and academic paper collections, as well as the daily operation of the Library. The Baha Committee also decides on general policies and guidelines, while a working committee within it deals with management and supervision. All Baha Committee members serve pro bono.
In order to have a comprehensive collection of social science-related works on Nepal, scholars who have worked in Nepal are being requested to contribute their own works and if possible that of their colleagues. Similarly, Himalayan and Nepal scholars are also being asked to bequeath their private collections to the Social Science Baha.
Funds for the Social Science Baha and its library are being raised for both short and long terms. Nepalis and expatriates, wherever they may be living, are asked to help as are bilateral and multilateral institutions. Assistance is mostly requested in kind (books and journals), but there is a need to raise money to purchase a variety of books and journals, and to pay for infrastructure, salaries, rent and utilities. Membership and annual fees contribute to the maintenance costs, but significant endowments are required to feed into the trust fund in order to provide long-term sustainability.
The current goal is to raise Rs 20,000,000 (two crore rupees) between 2002 and 2005, the bulk which will be set aside for the corpus trust fund. With this, we ask you to join us in establishing this public library. You can make donations by cash or by cheque made out in favour of SSB-Himal Association, Nepal Investment Bank Limited, Pulchowk, Lalitpur, Nepal. Your support is essential.
For more information, please contact:
Social Science Baha
PO Box 166, Lalitpur, Nepal
Tel: +977-1-542544 • Fax: +977-1-541196