June 29, 2007

On libraries

There is an amazing little library hidden in Bangkok that I had the pleasure of visiting fro the first time yesterday. It's the David Thomas Library, and it belongs to the local SIL office.

If you're not familiar with SIL, they're a faith-based (i.e. Christian) organization which has a number of arms. They're probably most well known for their Bible translating and their work with linguistics, particularly minority languages. Their Ethnologue is quite a feat--a catalogue of the world's 6,900 living languages (by their count). It is not without its shortcomings, and its language classifications and divisions are frequently challenged by linguists, but it's well worth a look.

SIL stands for Summer Institute of Linguistics, which is what they were back when it was started in 1934. Now, though, they're everywhere, and it's not just from June to September.

The David Thomas Library is attached to the SIL's Mainland Southeast Asia Office on
Phahonyothin (พหลโยธิน) Soi 8, about 200 meters in on the left. According to its website, It houses some 10,000 books, articles and journals, all in one little room. It's a veritable treasure trove of hard-to-find books, and even more impressive is the amount of unpublished material they've collected, from full manuscripts to handouts from conference talks. You literally can't find some of this stuff anywhere.

The library is named after David Thomas, a giant in Mon-Khmer linguistics who passed away in 2006. During the several hours I spent at the library yesterday, I saw his name inside the front cover of more than a few volumes, so I imagine his personal library is the heart of the collection.

Anyone can use and read the David Thomas Library for free. And they let professors, researchers and students of local universities borrow books. Pretty cool.

It would be very cool to have a library named after me some day. In the meantime, you can check out my personal library on Librarything. These are all books I own, although right now they're spread out between two continents (and there are several dozen Thai books that I haven't added yet).

Or look at a particular subset of my library using tags. Allow me to suggest Thai (all books in Thai), Thai language (books about the language itself), translated English > Thai, translated Thai > English, Southeast Asia, or dictionaries.

The Rikker Dockum Library also accepts book donations. :P

1 comment:

  1. Ah, library posts always warm my heart. :) And I wish I'd known about the DTL when I was in Bangkok -- the next time I'm there (whenever that will be) I'll definitely check it out. Thanks!

    (And if I weren't building up the Ben Crowder Library, I'd transfer some materials to the Rikker Dockum Library. I guess you could do ILL in the meantime. :P)