Wednesday Feb 8, 2023
Wednesday Feb 8, 2023

Kaiser Library: History on shelves

Finding itself a part of the massive Kaiser compounds in the heart of the valley, Kaiser Library today is one of Nepal’s oldest and largest libraries in existence.

2022 Jan 06, 8:09,

Bearing one of Nepalese history’s most recognizable names, Kaiser Library, one would presume today stands as the massive Rana building filled to the brim with a deluge of knowledge amongst its ancient walls it was built decades ago to be, 7 years ago before the tragedies of the earthquake, this would’ve been the case, however since then library is a mere shadow of its former regal self.

Upon entering the library garden, one beholds the sight of the massive white building that was the Kaiser library draped in tarpaulins and bamboo sticks, pieces of the walls itself missing with the entire garden filled with construction set-ups. Cozying up right next to this gargantuan building on the mend, one finds a small yet lengthy pre-fab structure that today is the Kaiser Library. The entire library with all of its books and select artifacts have been moved inside these makeshift premises available to the public for general use.

Library visitors and readers are able to access countless academic and general books from every genre one could think of within the library premises. Readers are also able to make use of their silent private rooms if one were looking for a more quiet and isolated reading session.

Despite commendable efforts by the staff at the library to continue providing their facilities to the public, the contrast between the old Kaiser Library and the provisional Prefab building we see today is quite stark. Available for public use since 11th of September 1969, the library started off as the passion project of then Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher. Upon returning from Britain in 1908, Kaiser Shumsher was immensely impressed by the museums and libraries in England, hence he commissioned the building of his own private library, which remained closed to the public until his demise. After which the library was passed on to the government as per his own will.

“The library today provides and ensures the overall development of international and nationally sourced educational materials, specializing in texts of historic and cultural significance. We provide necessary training to those who look to work in this field and also maintain close ties with international libraries to share books amongst us,” says Nani Ram Karki, Director of the Kaiser Library.

“Before the earthquake we used to have around 800-900 people visiting the library every day, while the number has declined since, we still get a healthy number of people daily. We are a library for academics and educators and we hope to keep facilitating the scholars and students of Nepal for years to come.” adds Karki.

Initially starting off as Kaiser Sumsher’s private collection of books, antiques and animals today Kaiser Library has more than 80,000 books in its premises, consisting of more than 600 handwritten books written on leaf-paper, which include “Suahatar Tantra” and “Tantra Shrasta” the likes of which are more than a thousand years old. Today all of Kaiser Shumsher’s belongings and the collection of these invaluable books are stored in a safe until the premises are renovated. After which these artifacts labelled the “Kaiser Collection” and the “New Collection” shall be displayed as usual within the renovated library premises.

Currently the library in its makeshift home is being run by 15 staff members, open from 10:00 - 5:00 on the weekdays. Kaiser Library is a reference library, hence, anyone can enter the library within the allotted times and read any book available within the premises. “The books available here aren’t available anywhere in Nepal, maybe due to their rarity and also their age. These books are exclusive to Kaiser and I love coming here and often use these books for my work.” says Poonam Kuikel, a Library-goer working as an educator in Nepal.

Adorned with paintings of Kings and monuments, furnished with the most regal of décor and embellished with elegant architectural designs of old, Kaiser Library besides its utmost academic significance in Nepal was a spectacle to behold. One can only hope that post-refurbishing the library retains the essence of what made it truly such a unique structure in the history books. “If all goes to plan and there are no more budgetary or emergency problems that come up, we hope to finish construction within 2 years and bring back the library in its past glory to serve the general public soon!” concludes a hopeful Karki.

Kaiser Library Nepalese Chandra Shumsher Rana earthquake Reconstruction Kaiser Collection
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