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What’s past is prologue: history, current status and future prospects of library development in Bhutan

Sonam Wangdi (Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research, Bumthang, Bhutan)
Cathleen LeGrand (Formerly Librarian, Royal Thimphu College, Nassau, Bahamas)
Phuntsho Norbu (Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan, Thimphu, Bhutan)
Sonam Rinzin (Royal Society for Protection of Nature, Thimphu, Bhutan)

Global Knowledge, Memory and Communication

ISSN: 2514-9342

Article publication date: 16 October 2020

Issue publication date: 28 May 2021




This paper aims to outline the history of libraries in Bhutan, to describe the current state of library development and to recommend priority areas for library enhancement.


The authors have worked extensively as library professionals in Bhutan and share factual details derived from their personal experience. They review the published literature, particularly the fieldwork of two scholars who studied Bhutan’s libraries and library workers. The authors use their own experience to interpret those findings and make suggestions for future development.


The paper briefly traces the evolution of print culture and the history of libraries, exploring monastic, school, college, public and national libraries. The paper examines government policies regarding education and libraries and discusses the acknowledgment of the value of libraries and the lack of actual support.


There is limited study of the history of reading culture or libraries in Bhutan. The authors document their first-hand experiences and efforts to implement systems for library resource sharing and professional development. The authors hope that this record will serve to illuminate past effort, to describe the unique information environment in Bhutan and to guide future decision-making. The authors recommend many future avenues for study, including reading habits, information-seeking behavior and attitudes toward libraries and librarians.



Authors would like to express their profound gratitude to Mr Yeshey Dorji, the former chief librarian of Samtse College of Education for sharing his library professional experiences of over 3 decades and inspiring them to write this article. They also would like to extend their deepest thanks to Mr Tshering Phuntsho, the librarian of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Public Library for sharing his experiences and opinions about the status of the public library. Their appreciation also extends to all the librarians of Bhutan for this unconditional support.


Wangdi, S., LeGrand, C., Norbu, P. and Rinzin, S. (2021), "What’s past is prologue: history, current status and future prospects of library development in Bhutan", Global Knowledge, Memory and Communication, Vol. 70 No. 4/5, pp. 339-354.



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