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66th IFLA Council and General

Jerusalem, Israel, 13-18 August


Code Number: 092-175(WS)-E
Division Number: III
Professional Group: Mobile Libraries: Workshop
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 175
Simultaneous Interpretation: No

Mobile libraries in Thailand

Poolsook Priwatrworawute
Librarian, Thammasat University Libraries, Thammasat University
Bangkok, Thailand


The mobile library can be organized by public or private sectors which are interested in the library, and realize its value and usefulness to the remote communities. It can help the people who are inconvenient to go to the library and motivate those of lacking reading habits. Many library resources and knowledge are available for all levels, genders, ages of people in the mobile library. There are various formats and vehicles uses of the mobile library depending on the sites to give service. Two main official organizations which are responsible for mobile libraries are Non-Formal Education Department, and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. The status of moblie libraries which most of them are parts of public library services is not quite good but it is hoped to be developed and better in a near future. The author expected to see their progress especially that concerning with the new technology in order to facilitate the staff work and educate the users and the disadvantage.

The mobile library is a service or an activity of many types of libraries. It is settled to facilitate users who are inconvenient to go to the library because of the distance, the time, the expense, the lack of knowledge on library, and the lack of reading habit.


The problems of being unable to use the library

The distance is an important cause which makes the users living a long way refuse to go to the library if not necessary. Even within a school area, many pupils would not like to go to the library which locates in the building far away from their classrooms. Uppatham Chaisena, a librarian-teacher of Ratchawinit School in Bangkok, mentioned in the article "The Mobile Library of Ratchawinit Population" when the School had more new buildings, pupils in some classrooms had to move to those quite far away from the library. They hardly went to use the library though the library tried to arrange many activities concerned. The librarian-teacher tried to find the causes and found that the distance from the classrooms to the library was long. It took their time.

The time the users has to spend a lot makes them refuse to go to the library if not necessary either. From the same article referenced above, the pupils hardly went to use the library quite often as usual because of not only the long distance but also a lot of assignments from teachers. They went to the library to borrow and return books only.

The librarian-teacher also gave the solutions of two problems above. The mobile baskets with books were arranged and sent to the classrooms which were not within easy reach of the library so that the pupils were able to read the books. However a problem followed, the number of books in the baskets were not enough for them. Therefore the librarian-teacher made the book corner project accompanying the mobile baskets. The project was well cooperated from the teachers and the pupils in the School.

The expense is one more cause which makes the users refuse to go to the library. Many libraries that people can use without any charge are far, they have to pay a lot for vehicle fares or petrol to reach the library. At present the fares and the petrol are quite expensive so the people do not go to the library if not necessary.

It can be seen that three causes above concerning one another quite a lot. They are important reasons of the people who deny going to the library.

The lack of knowledge on library is a cause that makes some people not go to the library. Many people who love books and reading, and like to seek new knowledge do not know the library, especially public libraries which are supplied for giving the knowledge and the services to all levels, genders, ages of people. Everybody can use them free of charge. Moreover, there are librarians and other library staff giving the suggestion, assistance and solution on library use to their patrons. When the library provides the mobile library service to the communities, it has to inform them about the purposes of the service, and persuades them to use it. The people who do not know the library will come to use the mobile library service.

The lack of reading habit is a cause that makes the people not want to go to the library. Therefore, providing the interesting mobile library to give best services and facilities to users will support reading promotion to them, make them have a habit of loving reading, prevent them from illiteracy. Besides they can get the benefit from books, search and find the information they want by themselves.


The purposes of mobile libraries

Due to various causes mentioned above, the mobile library was found together with the following purposes.

  • Providing knowledge, information, data in the forms of books, journals, other printed materials, CD-ROMs, audio-visual materials, such as movies, slides, videotapes on interesting stories in order to serve the people who live in the areas inconvenient to go to the library to get equal knowledge, skill and experience.

  • Supporting reading promotion to make people have reading habit. This can also prevent them from illiteracy. Reading will give them good impression.

  • Making the people use of their free time by reading. They will get many benefits. They cannot be easily deceived. They can apply the knowledge to develop their quality of life, to make it better and higher. The demands of people in the area the library serves should be surveyed so that the library can fulfill their needs. The librarian can cooperate with the learned people in the area in order to provide what the people want other than reading. The speakers can be invited to give the lectures and demonstration on the topics the people are interested in. The workshop is another good way to do.

  • Promoting the people in the area to love and preserve books, and to know their values.

  • Having the private sectors which want to help the disadvantaged people to read books and can support the mobile library.


The materials to be served in the mobile library

The library resources which can be moved to serve the people in the communities are various types of books, journals, magazines, other printed materials, CD-ROMs, audiovisual materials with equipment's, bookshelves and reading space. It has to have library staff to serve the users. The mobile library will go to several communities which can be schools, factories, hospitals, hotels, temples, railway stations, rehabilitation places, reading places of villages. Any form of vehicles can be used to suit the places to serve.

The formats and vehicles of mobile library

There are many formats of mobile library services, and several types of vehicles can be used.

  • Book package. This format is good for a small place which a vehicle does not fit to drive in. The books are packed in parcels with 10-25 books each. The parcels will be sent into villages, about 10 parcels for each village. The village will be responsible for the materials, move them around in order to let everybody have the chance to read them. It takes about 5-10 days for each parcel.

  • Book basket mobile library. In Kukunt District, Srisakes Province, a librarian whose house was near the fresh market, wanted the mongers to read books. So he put some books in a basket and took them there. He offered that the mongers could borrow these books without any charge and he himself would bring the books directly to them. By this way the mongers would love reading and not forget how to read.

  • Motorboat mobile library. This way is good for people living along the riverside. There are reading space, shelves with books, journals, magazines, newspapers, audiovisual materials with equipments, and a number of library staff to help users in the boat. This type of the mobile library should be managed by the organization because high budget must be used to provide and maintain the long run boat and wide campus services. The places the boat will give the services should be planned in advance. The people in the area are informed and persuaded to use the mobile library. They can read books in the boat or borrow them back home. The boat will go around from place to place and come back to the same place within 7 days. The people can renew the books if they don't finish reading them or return them and borrow the new ones. The circulation system is like in general library. The borrowers have to pay the fine for the overdue books.

  • Bus mobile library. This type of library should be also managed by the organization because high budget must be used to arrange the services. The work has to be planned and prepared in advance. The resources and services are like the motorboat mobile library. There are two main official units which seriously take care of the bus mobile library, Informal Education Promotion Center, Non-Formal Education Department, Ministry of Education, and Public Library Section, Recreation Division, Department of Social Welfare, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

In some remote areas the vans are used instead of the buses. Some public librarians in the south of Thailand used their own cars.

  • Cow-drawn cart mobile library. A monk in a province of Thailand provided this type of the mobile library. The cart will move out from place to place within the province to serve the people everyday.

  • Book bag mobile library. Public libraries and Non-Formal Education Centers of many provinces prepared the book bags with 20 books per bag, and sent them to every village or each house in the village which wanted books to read.

  • Static train mobile library. Instead of bus or motorboat, the train is used as a mobile library. At present there is only one static train in Bangkok which is used for this purpose, and organized by the private sector.

  • Tricycle mobile library. Librarians in some provincial public libraries were supported the money from the private sector to hire the tricycles to take books to serve out of the libraries. Besides some monks brought the tricycles to get the books from the library unit to serve other monks and the people around. The books would bring back to take the new ones within one month.

  • Motorcycle mobile library. Some provincial public libraries packed the books in boxes and put them at the back of motorcycles driving to the defined places to give services to people. Nowadays this type of mobile library is not available. Many motorcycles were old and could not be used anymore.

Mobile libraries of Informal Education Promotion Center, Non-Formal Education Department, Ministry of Education, and Public Library Section, Recreation Division, Department of Social Welfare, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration

As mentioned at the beginning of the paper, mobile libraries are provided by many types of libraries. Moreover, some private sectors were interested in and supported some types of mobile libraries as found in the topic "Formats and Vehicles of the Mobile Library." However many formats and many types of vehicles stops now, especially the ones which were informal operated. At present if anybody talks about mobile libraries in Thailand, the two official units, Informal Education Promotion Center, Non-Formal Education Department, Ministry of Education, and Public Library Section, Recreation Division, Department of Social Welfare, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration which are in charge of public libraries and mobile libraries will be in the issue.

Informal Education Promotion Center, Non-Formal Education Department Ministry of Education is responsible for 854 public libraries in all provinces except Bangkok which is taken care by Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

There are 20 public libraries serving various areas in Bangkok, together with 9 bus mobile libraries. Informal Education Promotion Center, Non-Formal Education Department, Ministry of Education has one bus mobile library and one boat mobile library providing the services for the people in Bangkok and the areas nearby.

Mobile libraries of Informal Education Promotion Center, Non-Formal Education Department, Ministry of Education

Nowadays Informal Education Promotion Center, Non-Formal Education Department, Ministry of Education provides one bus mobile library service with the action plan to have six more in the future. The objectives of the service are to organize learning activities and encourage children, youths and general public to acquire their knowledge from various types of learning materials, and to upgrade the quality of life of the disadvantaged children, youths and people in slum areas, in small enterprises and in construction sites within Bangkok. In the bus numerous types of learning materials such as printed artificial, and exhibition materials, textbooks, non-formal education learning packages and electronic materials to community people particularly to those living in slum areas and to less developed communities in Bangkok can be found. The bus mobile library can assist people to keep pace with today's necessarily fundamental knowledge. This includes family education, health, democracy, environmental education, daily life basic laws and entertainment news.

A boat mobile library is another service. Its objectives are to expand the reading promotion, and to acquire the knowledge from various types of learning materials for the people who live along the riverside to get equal services and facilities; and to provide learning experience from the real situation about the river civilization and water environment to pupils, students and general public, to make them realize in the problems and want to take part in natural resources preservation.

Many people are interested in the services of mobile libraries. They can register to be members of the library in order to be able to borrow books back. They can renew if not finished reading them within 7 days. The overdue books are not fined.

A problem that a bus mobile library faces is about the parking place.

Mobile libraries of Public Library Section, Recreation Division, Department of Social Welfare, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration

Public Library Section, Recreation Division, Department of Social Welfare, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has provided only the bus mobile library services to serve the people in Bangkok Metropolitan Area. There are now nine buses. The first bus began in 1991, the second in 1995, the third in 1996, the fourth to the seventh in 1997, and the last two in 1999. The purpose of mobile libraries is to make libraries go into communities of the disadvantage including the children, to make them love books and reading which will be useful to themselves.

All types of books, journals, magazines, videotapes are available in the buses, about 4,000-5,000 volumes altogether. For the first bus, there are more than 1,000 registered members who can borrow 2 books for 7 days. The fine is one baht per day per copy.

The problems which affect the service are the lack of driver, and the broken bus sometimes.

Scientific mobile museum and library of Educational Science Centre, Non-Formal Education Department, Ministry of Education

One more organization that its mobile work should be mentioned is Educational Science Centre. It is under Non-Formal Education Department, Ministry of Education, the same as Informal Education Promotion Center. Its mobile work which has the similar concept to the mobile library is the scientific mobile museum. It might not be wrong to call it the scientific mobile museum and library. A big bus contains scientific learning equipments. The experiment and demonstration of how to apply the scientific knowledge to use in our daily life are shown. Besides there are books and toys corners in the bus to motivate the users including children to know and to try. This will make them creative. The scientific mobile museum and library goes to serve each province and district 2 days at a time. The people can use the services by themselves or ask the staff who is able to give the answer, explanation and suggestion of what the users want to know very well.

The expected future of the mobile library

Thailand is a developing country which is not rich. To provide the various technologies to develop library work is not easy done, especially in public libraries. The status of Thai public libraries are not good. They are the lowest level comparing to other types of libraries. It may be because the two main official organizations, Ministry of Education, and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, who are responsible for public libraries and mobile libraries have many subsequent units to be responsible for, and the libraries are not in the top priorities. However many administrators concerned have tried to do their best. So it is hoped that the libraries may be better and better in the near future. Back to the present, from this reason most of mobile libraries which are under the same organizations as public libraries, or some are their services or activities may not be quickly approved to apply new technology, such as computers and Internet, to use in. Nevertheless the following hopes of the mobile libraries or their future are expected.

  • The basic telecommunication equipments, such as telephone, telefax should be complemented.

  • The small or desktop photocopier should be available with low price for users who want the information from reference books.

  • The special facilities and convenience should be prepared for the small children, the old and the disabilities.

  • Computer sets should be provided for library staff work and for users needs.

  • Internet system should be complemented.

  • The library staff should have computers along with Internet system for circulation and reference work, such as checking the materials the users need whether or not they were borrowed out. If they were it is possible to check from the main libraries or other libraries.

  • Users can find what they want from computers and Internet.

  • The document delivery is a suggested service.

  • The workshop on basic computer and/or Internet use should be provided appropriately.

  • The disadvantage should be the important target of mobile library service to give knowledge and opportunity equal to the progressive communities. The courses on computers should be provided for them.

  • Necessary facilities for the library staff should be realized.



Monley, Bruce and Pestell, Robert. "Mobile Libraries in the Age of Technology." APLIS 9 (June 1996); 78-82.

Prasertrat Sangcharoen. "Public Libraries of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration." Dome-Tas 14 (January- June 1993): 11-12, 53. (in Thai)

Renoo Piasue. "Intensive Services." Dome-Tas 14 (January-June 1993): 6-10. (in Thai)

_______ Public Library Operation. Bangkok: Nanmee Books, 1995. (in Thai)

______ Ex-Supervisor, Non-Formal Education Department, Ministry of Education, Interview, 14 February 2000.

Thailand. Non-Formal Education Department. Informal Education Promotion Center. "Mobile Bus Library." Bangkok: Informal Education Promotion Center, Non-Formal Education Department, 1999. (in Thai)

_______"Boat Mobile Library Project on the Occasion of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's Thirty Sixth Birthday Anniversary." Rungsit Sara Sontet 4 (July-December 1998): 5-7. (in Thai)

Uppatham Chaisena. "Mobile Library of Ratchawinit Population." Dome-Tas 14 (January- June 1993): 28-30. (in Thai)


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