HÀ NỘI – For more than 20 years, the space under the stairs of the first floor in the A3 apartment building in Nghĩa Tân Ward of Hà Nội has been home to bookshelves.
Newcomers or those who first visit the building may be surprised as the bookshelves and reading materials there belong to no one. They are shared and look after by the residents of the building.
The mini library has bookshelves, tables and chairs and books of all genres shelved in different areas such as classics, fiction, non-fiction, history, healthcare, science, law, memoirs as well as daily newspapers.
Đào Thị Anh Tuấn, a resident of the building, has spent many years voluntarily arranging newspapers and books at the library.
Tuấn said before 1999, people usually parked their motorbikes, ran small business stalls or occupied the stair area for personal purposes.
“Some retired people and veterans living in the building had an idea to set up a public library there, making it the first special cultural stair in the city,” Tuấn said.
It was then turned into a common cultural area for the community where people can go to read books, newspapers and talk to each other.
“We called on the residents to donate newspapers, books, tables and chairs," she said, adding they set some rules to ensure the reading corner runs effectively. For example, every household takes turns to clean the stair daily, remove advertisements or drawings on walls and funds are raised by the residents to buy more books and newspapers.
"For over 20 years, the stair has been a familiar place for the building's residents to gather and share their reading habit," she said, adding that such activities also helped tighten the relationship of the different generations, neighbours and solidarity of the community.
While the young find interesting or useful resources for their studies or reading pleasure, older people enjoy reading news and events from daily newspapers. Many of them come to read and discuss news and events together.
Đỗ Trung Minh, a retired official who helps run the library, said the space under the stairs at the A3 building was quite large – about 20 sq.m, so it used to be used for parking.
Some people even left garbage there, he said.
"Since we cleaned up and opened a reading corner there, the area looks much better and residents have a place to meet, read and talk," he said.
Another resident, Nguyễn Thị Hát, said she found many useful medical books and materials at the small library under the stairs.
"I usually read books and articles about how to stay healthy and avoid illness," she said.
Đào Tùng Dương, a secondary school pupil, said he usually went to the library to read after school.
"Reading printed books and magazines is better for my eyes rather than using a mobile phone," Dương said.
In the era of the internet, tablets and e-readers, reading culture is still maintained and promoted here, thanks to the "cultural stair".
From this model, many community activities have been organised such as the weekly cleaning of the whole building, fundraising for people suffering from natural disasters and cooking competitions.
The success of the “cultural stair" of the A3 apartment block has even been spread to dozens of other neighbouring apartment buildings in Nghĩa Tân Ward.
The ward's authorities have called on other buildings to implement the same model which has proved effective in promoting the reading culture and community connection. VNS
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