Free library opens door to knowledge

Updated: 2012-01-04 07:55

By Wang Qingyun (China Daily)

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Free library opens door to knowledge

Liu Mulei talks to pupils in his free library near the Tangdong Primary School in Wanfu town, East China's Jiangxi province. Wang Qingyun / China Daily

NANCHANG - It was a brisk and sunny morning in late December. Like every other day in the town of Wanfu, Jiangxi province, a man stooped over laying out newspapers and magazines on a table in the market, his face wrinkled into a half-smile.

His table was soon surrounded by adults and children flipping through the papers and magazines. They were reading at the little bookstand for free, or to borrow favorite books at the bookstand without giving any deposit.

Liu Mulei, 76, taught primary students Chinese for 40 years. Since retiring in 1996, he has collected about 6,000 albums of newspapers, magazines and books.

With this considerable collection, Liu opened his first library in 2006 when he began to take care of the activity room for elderly people in the town. Now he runs four libraries, including this famous one set up in the market in 2009.

"For the first five years after retirement I spent about 1,000 yuan ($160) on newspapers and magazines every year, and more and more people came to read them," Liu said. "So in order to satisfy their needs, since 2001 I spend about 4,000 yuan a year on buying reading material."

Mail carrier Guo Weiping has known Liu for 11 years. "We advised him to order less, but he just loves his libraries," Guo said.

Liu's house is also the library of Meixi village, where he lives. Out on the wall he put a signboard stating "Longevity Rural Library". It's just like a traditional Chinese farmer's house if one ignores the red banner hung across the brick wall: "Books are the ladder of human progress."

Inside, bookshelves are full of books and newspaper clippings, while newspapers waiting to be stitched into albums are piled on a table and on his bed.

The library he runs in the market comprises two cabinets of books, two tables, several benches and a blackboard where readers' essays are written. Weekends witness as many as 30 people who come to read or borrow, Liu said. Many of them are elderly, and Liu prepares 10 pairs of glasses to help them read.

He also encourages venders in the market to visit his library.

"He would be a little upset if no one came to read," said Liu Minggou, head of the Meixi village committee. "Sometimes, he will bring readings to the venders when they are too busy to read by his bookstand in the market."

To make his library more popular, Liu told the public that he would give an award to people who have read or borrowed 100 books last year.

Although the prize is yet to be given out, Wang Fusheng, a vender who helps look after the library, said the library helps improve the cultural atmosphere there.

"Mr Liu is a good man. He carries on the libraries with his own money," Wang said. "The library expands our knowledge. Now more people turn to reading instead of participating in gambling in their spare time."

Liu doesn't get upset when asked about readers losing his books.

"Only a few books were lost - by accident. Besides, most of these magazines and newspapers are really cheap. I won't ask people to pay compensation."

"There is a golden house in every book," Liu quoted a traditional Chinese saying to indicate his love for reading. "Books are my life. My life is books. What is money for when my life is gone?"