The joy of reading, fostered by a roadside library in Yangon

Originally it lent books to migrant workers, but the service has become popular for the whole neighborhood
By RFA Burmese










The small, outdoor library on a Yangon street corner spills over with books and magazines covering a wide range of genres, including religion, technology, foreign language and self-help.

The bookshelves were set up as a free roadside library by Yin Kyi, a 58-year-old bookseller who lives in the area, as a service to the neighborhood’s many migrant workers from the countryside who come to work in Myanmar’s biggest city – or anyone who loves to read.

The country may be going through turmoil and civil war under military rulers who took control of the government in a 2021 coup d’etat, but reading offers an imaginative outlet.

The makeshift library’s size depends on the season. During the dry season between November and April, there are more than 1,000 books available on four bookshelves, but in the rainy season from May to October, the library must be reduced to two shelves, or about 700 books.

Called the Ma Naw Phyu, or “Pure Mind” Free Library, the roadside stand is quite popular, with some borrowers coming from other cities.

But not everyone returns the books they borrow. Yin Kyi says about 70 percent do, so he has to periodically replenish them.

If you’re ever in northwestern Yangon, the stand is in Karmarut Ward 3, near the corner of Aung Chan Thar 2nd Street and Mya Zay Yar Street.

And if you stop by to grab something to read, you may also sit down for a quick bite at the small restaurant next to the library, where Yin Kyi’s wife Htar makes traditional spicy noodle soups and salads.

Yin Kyi's dream is to one day be able to move the library indoors, creating a relaxing space where everyone can sit and read peacefully.

Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Eugene Whong.


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