June 4 - 10  2023: Issue 586


Tibetan library collection safeguards language and culture

Tibetan Library launch - children dancing

Tibetans living locally will now be able to read books in their own language - something banned in their own country - following the launch of a collection at Dee Why Library on Saturday.

The Tibetan collection, a first for a public library in Australia, was developed in collaboration with the NSW State Library, Northern Beaches Council Libraries executive manager Maeva Masterson told the launch.

And in another first, the libraries had developed both a Tibetan language and English catalogue for the collection, Ms Masterson said.

A crowd of about 100 people, including members of the Tibetan community, library staff and councillors, joined the launch at Dee Why library, which was decorated with colourful Tibetan flags. Tibetan food and dancing also featured at the event.

Tibetan Community of Australia spokesman Migmar Tsering congratulated the Northern Beaches Council on the collection, noting its significance to the maintenance of Tibetan language, music, and dance in the face of Chinese restrictions in his home country. 

“In Tibet we don’t have the right to keep the Tibetan language,” he said.

“In this free country we have the opportunity to learn and keep our language.”

Migmar Tsering

State Library multicultural consultant Oriana Acevido said the collection originated with a conversation at Dee Why library before Covid hit.

“Our language is linked to our whole culture: the way that we feel, the way that we see things and the way that we love,” Ms Acevido, who hails from South America, told the launch.

Left to right: Maeva Masterson - NBC Libraries executive manager, Mayor Sue Heins and State Library Multicultural Consultant Oriana Acevedo.  

The libraries had set a target of 1,000 volumes for the Tibetan collection, covering children’s books, fiction and non-fiction including religion, history and health. A small supplier had sourced about 800 books in India and Nepal for the libraries.

“The library will keep sustaining the collection for as long as the community is here, and keep it fresh,” she said.

Northern Beaches Mayor Sue Heins said the area had a long-standing connection with Tibet.

Tibetan was one of the top five languages spoken in Dee Why and in the past the area had hosted a bilingual Tibetan playgroup and the library had translated children’s books from English into Tibetan.

“I’d like to thank the state library for providing this incredible resource,” Ms Heins said.

Young Tibetan Australian Tenzin Chokrup said he, along with many other Tibetans, was ecstatic that they could now read Tibetan books and teach their children their language and culture.

“I’d like to thank the Northern Beaches Council because we now have an opportunity that Tibetans in Tibet don’t have,” he told the gathering.  

Mr Tsering later said he had come to Australia in 1996 as a refugee, after four years’ imprisonment in Tibet for peaceful protesting. He had escaped across the mountains to India and then Nepal, spending 10 years in those two countries.     

About 600 Tibetans lived on the Northern Beaches and 1,400 Sydney wide, Mr Tsering said.

Miranda Korzy, Greens Councillor for Pittwater

Tibet Library launch - uncovering the books
Tibetan Library launch - women dancing
Tibet Library launch - books popular

Tibet Library launch - inside one book