This is a beginning to a series on great English libraries around the world. I will only report on those that I have frequented. All are invited to participate with additional library recommendations.
Neilson Hays Library
The Neilson Hays Library
of Bangkok, Thailand
When I think of English libraries in far-off lands, my imagings must have taken root in this library; I wouldn't be surprised to learn that I had visited it in a past life. A word to describe it -- "colonial". Tall white columns hold up upside-down cresent moons in the ceiling; dark brown teak cabinets with glass door fronts hold the books in, away from the heat and light; sturdy brown and olive chairs provide structure and discipline to the spine, although modernity has been allowed into the children's section by way of red and blue beanbags. What a thing, in picking out a book, to have to open a glass door as if selecting the next potion for a chemistry experiment. The Neilson Hays Library makes me dizzy from romantic nostalgia. Of course, the steadfast whitewashed stone walls limit exuberant growth in the collection (as there would be no possible way for additions to the building) as well as a lack of funding, but all is forgiven with just its existance.
Librarian at the front desk
The History of the Library
As detailed by the Neilson Hays Library website, "The Neilson Hays Library was founded in 1869 by the Ladies' Bazaar Association, which formed the Bangkok Ladies' Library Association to serve the reading needs of the large English-speaking community in Bangkok. The building and property now occupied by the Library were part of an endowment received from Dr. Hayward Hays in 1922 in memory of his wife Jennie Neilson Hays who had served on the committee of the Library for at least 25 years. It is the oldest non-profit association in the Kingdom of Thailand."
The Library Cafe
An additional pleasantry to the library is its next-door neighbor, the library cafe. The café's cuisine is to die for! Run by the Roadhouse BBQ (a superb restaurant itself), customers can order coffee, wine, snacks, or full comfort foods meals that are still healthy. The best thing on the menu? A half-sandwich of the BBQ Pulled Pork with Tomato soup. Accompanied with a generous portion of potato salad, this plate will fill you up and, in a moment of amusement, a quarter-sized piece of a grilled cheese sandwich is also provided for you to dip into your soup. All for 250 baht. Amazing.
Tuesday — Sunday 9:30AM — 5:00PM
Monday & Public Holidays Closed
Address & Contact Numbers
195 Surawong Road, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
tel: 02 233 1731
fax: 02 233 4999
Children's Storytelling: every Saturday morning, 10:15AM
Host of a twice yearly book sale. Next Sale: Nov. 10 & 11, 2007
Membership is open to all upon payment of an annual subscription fee and a one-time ฿500 book deposit. Membership fees are as follow until September 1st, 2007
(when they are raised):
*Family - ฿2,800, 12 hardcovers, including 4 new books at a time
*Adult (Age 22+ years) - ฿2,000, 6 hardcovers including 2 new books at a time
*Senior (Age 65+ years) - ฿1,000, 6 hardcovers including 2 new books at a time
*Student (Age 12-22 years) - ฿1,400, 4 hardcovers including 2 new books at a time
*Child (Age up to 12 years) - ฿1,400, 6 hardcovers including 2 new books at a time
Directions from subway
Depart via exit 3 of subway stop Chong Nonsi. Take the right staircase and, after descending, proceed forward until you come to a T-intersection (having crossed one other major street). Turn left. Walk for four large blocks (map doesn't show these) until you reach the Neilson Hays Library which will be on your left. Entire walk takes about 15-20 minutes.
-"Library History" from www.neilsonhayslibrary.com
-"Map to Library" from www.neilsonhayslibrary.com, with slight alterations by Cressida Hanson.
-Photos by Cressida Hanson