18 Jun 2013

Bougainville library, built with NZ help, opening Friday

4:25 pm on 18 June 2013

A New Zealand-run campaign to re-establish a library in formerly war-torn Bougainville in Papua New Guinea will achieve its goal this Friday with the official opening in Arawa.

"The idea for the library came from New Zealand writer Lloyd Jones, whose award-winning book Mister Pip is set in Bougainville."

He says during his promotional work for the book there was a lot of interest in what had happened in Bougainville and he wanted leverage this to do something worthwhile for the people.

The Bougainville Library Trust has been working with Volunteer Service Abroad to get the project completed and a Trust member, Pete Carter, who will be at the opening, told Don Wiseman they are delighted to get to this stage.

PETE CARTER: It does seem to have taken longer than I think any of us anticipated. Lloyd started the project back in 2009, so, yeah, it's four years. It feels good to have the building there and up and running and ready to go.

DON WISEMAN: It still needs a lot of books.

PC: It does. We sent up the first shipment of books back at the end of last year, which was approximately 5,000 books. So it's almost a skeleton amount of books for the library, but it's a starting point. We do hope to send another container with probably twice that many books sometime later in the year, anyway.

DW: You want New Zealanders to provide books or to buy books - what, exactly?

PC: Yes. We're continuing to raise funds to enable us to buy books. We have a collections policy for the library, so we're trying to ensure that we get books that are completely appropriate for the audience that will be reading them. So, ideally, we're raising funds to buy the books based on what is needed there.

DW: The library is associated with the Bougainville Heritage Trust. What does it actually mean? What is that involvement about?

PC: It's a committee of locals that are on the ground that are responsible for running the place. We have funded the building and we have provided the books. We've been fortunate enough to get a VSA-appointed librarian over there for a year. But the Bougainville Heritage Trust found... It's a slightly weird name, isn't it, I suppose... but they're a committee of locals, including the regional commissioner, the mayor of Arawa, there's the principal of the local high schools, there's the last librarian from the last library... They're a bunch of local Bougainvilleans who will be responsible for running the place and taking it over from them.

DW: So that's one library. What's next?

PC: (Laughs) Funny you should say that. We do have requests from time to time to pop them up like mushrooms in other places across the Pacific, but I think as a trust we feel like we've done our dash to some extent. But, yeah. Who knows, Don, who knows?