May 24, 2022

Improvements Needed: A Visit to Cambodia’s National Library

From The Phnom Penh Post:

As part of agreements to join ASEAN, the government has committed to improvements, but can it bring the National Library into the 21st century?

Approaching Cambodia’s National Library is an impressive reminder of the beauty of Phnom Penh’s architectural heritage. Built on a large patch of land to the west of Wat Phnom, where it backs onto the well-preserved National Archives, it is accessed via a grand stretch of stairs flanked by columns and statues. To the right of the doorway, “Force ties for a while, ideas bind forever” is emblazoned on the yellow facade – the motto chosen by the French Protectorate when it opened the library in 1924.

But once inside the building, the impression of grandeur quickly fades. Fans on the high-ceiling turn slowly, struggling to cool the handful of readers sitting at the long tables. Disorderly piles of books are propped up next to the receptionist’s desk, whose see-through donations box is thinly carpeted by small change.


Architecture student Roeun Virak says that few young people would consider using the facility: “They don’t have any of my books, only the staff can access the internet, and the PCs are so old and out of date,” he said.

But Cambodia’s upcoming accession to the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) has sparked changes that many believe will set the library on a different course

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.