65th IFLA Council and General
Bangkok, Thailand, August 20 - August 28, 1999
Mobile Library Service for the Blind and Visually Handicapped in Thailand
Department of Library Science
Faculty of Humanities
Sukhumvit 23, Bangkok 10110, Thailand
This paper reports the present situation of the library services for the blind and visually handicapped provided by the Caulfield Memorial Library, the first library for the blind in Thailand. It addresses the lack of mobile library services for the blind, and finally discusses the possibility of providing such services through cooperative efforts between the Caulfield Library and the existing mobile libraries
I. The present situation of library services for the blind and visually handicapped provided by the Caulfield Memorial Library
Currently, there are five special schools for the blind in Thailand. They operate under the jurisdiction of the Special Education Division, within the Ministry of Education. Each school has its own library. However, this paper will focus on the Caulfield Memorial Library which is the first library and still the major source of library materials for the blind in Thailand.
The Caulfield Library is located in Nonthaburi, a neighboring province of Bangkok. The Library was set up in 1977 by Mr. Narong Patibatsarakich, who himself is handicapped. When Mr. Narong retired from the directorship in early 1999, the library had already become the Education Technology Center for the Blind. The present Director of the Center is Mr. Chan Chinnavorn. The Center is administered by the Committee and financed by the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand as well as funding agencies at national and international levels.
With 14 staff members, the Center provides library services for its 1,600 members 6 days a week. The service hours are between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. The collection includes approximately 900 volumes of braille books and 1,600 titles of talking books. There are three main categories of braille books: textbooks, fiction and nonfiction titles. Due to the high cost of production, the collection is highly selective. For example, most textbooks are produced for primary and secondary levels according to the curriculum of the Ministry of Education. Textbooks for university level are available only in subjects requested by users. The majority of fiction items include classics, prize-winners, best-sellers and those produced into film and drama. Talking books are produced in cassettes by volunteers. The cassette collection includes academic, fiction and nonfiction items. The selection of titles for production is based on user needs.
In addition to books, the Center also published a quarterly magazine "Mitrsanit" in braille. This features social news for the blind community, advanced technology for the visually handicapped, general knowledge and articles written by the blind. The newspaper "Naew Mai," produced on tapes, features current news reports and analysis, interviews, news about the blind, sports news, science and technology for everday life, general knowledge and interesting stories. Regarding the application of technology, the Center uses computers to produce braille books. A plan to produce talking books on CD is being considered by the Committee.
II. Mobile library service for the blind
At present, no form of mobile library for the blind is provided by the Center. Library services are delivered at the Center and through telephone as well as mail services. An interview with the Director of the Center shows that the Center has a very limited budget While the library collection is being used extensively its expasion is slow. Since 1991only 750 titles of braille books have been added. Financial constraint makes it difficult for the Center to reach out to the visually impaired who do not have access to library services.
However, way back in 1991, the Travelling Exhibition of Books for Young Readers, the library outreach project of the Srinakharinwirot University Library, with kind advice from Mr. Hiroshi Kawamura (the former Chairman of IFLA Section of Libraries for the Blind), proposed an extension service for the blind (Cheunwattana, 1991). The project conducted a pilot activity for the blind students at the Bangkok School of the Blind. Activities conducted included storytelling and participation by students after the storytelling session. Students were excited and eager to learn from new experiences. Clay molding and storytelling with strings are examples of activities participated by students. The project staff also donated a set of the travelling exhibition ( a book rack and books) to the school library. Later the librarians of this school selected titles for transcibing into braille. The transcription was typed on plastic sheets which in turn were inserted in the original copy of the books for the students to enjoy (Pansida, 1992). This pilot activity demonstrated the feasibility of providing outreach services for the blind. Unfortunately, the Travelling Exhibition of Books for Young Readers, faced with staff shortage, could not extend beyond the existing services.
III. Future possibility in providing mobile library services for the visually impaired
With limited resources, it seems that no single library can successfully reach out through mobile services to serve the information needs of visually impaired population. The author, thus, would like to propose "institutional cooperation" as a strategy to tackle this problem. Currently, the Center of Informal Education Promotion within the Ministry of Education provides a mobile public library service by boat to the riverside community in Bangkok and neighboring provinces. Among its regular users is a mentally handicapped child. The Social Welfare of Bangkok Motropolitan also provides mobile libraries on wheels. The Caulfield Library, as a producer of library materials for the blind, should cooperate with these mobile services. Braille books, large-print books, children books with braille transcription, and talking books can be passed along any mobile library to visually handicapped persons who could be potential users. It is important that the mobile library staff make this special service known to potential users through effective means of publicity.
The author discussed the possibility of such cooperative efforts with the administrators of the Caulfield Center and the Center of Informal Education Promotion. The idea receives favorable responses from both organizations. Should a coordinator be needed to put the idea into action, the author, on behalf of the Department of Library Science, Srinakharinwirot University, will commit herself to facilitate cooperation among concerned organizations. The author hopes from these sessions to gather ideas and comments from fellow participants which will be useful to pass on to the Caulfield Library.
Cheunwatttana, A. (1991). Library services for the visually handicapped in Thailand: A country report. A paper presented at the Asian Seminar on Library Services to the Visually Handicapped in Developing Countries, Tokyo, Japan, 25-31 January 1991.
Pansida, C. (1992). Library services for the visually handicapped in Thailand. A paper presented at the IFLA Pre-Conference of Literacy for the Visually Handicapped in Developing Countries, Dehardun, India, 25-27 August 1992.