FEATURE: Library brings hope to Pingtung County village

SUNSHINE AFTER RAIN::The library was relocated and modernized with the help of residents and a generous donation from the Buddhist Fo Guang Shan Foundation

By Lee Li-fa and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 - Page 5

Named after a flower that symbolizes vitality and hope, the Sunflower Library in Terong Village (德榮) in Pingtung County’s Changjhih Township (長治) is more than an ordinary library. Having survived the brunt of storms and frequent flooding, it has become an embodiment of the power of love and collective effort.

The establishment of the library stemmed from a tragedy involving a young girl surnamed Huang (黃), who died in a car accident a decade ago while cycling to a downtown library to return some library books.

At the time, the village did not have a library, which was why the young girl had to cycle a long distance to borrow books.

Saddened by this misfortune, Lee Chen-wei (李鎮衛), who then served as a village coordinator, resolved to take action and push forward with the creation of a library in the remote community.

The proposal was encouraged by Lee’s wife, Tsai Hui-ling (蔡慧玲), who joined her husband’s efforts to bring about changes to the region.

A well-connected man, Lee received approval to locate the proposed library within a local community center, with the village warden and a number of community volunteers also aiding in his efforts to decorate the place.

To enrich the library’s collection, Tsai also made a generous donation of a range of publications and magazines, worth over NT$10,000 (US$330) in total.

Following years of concerted effort between Lee, Tsai and residents, the library was eventually opened to the community in 2003, boasting a collection of more than 6,000 publications.

However, because it was located in a low-lying area, the much-anticipated library was flooded as many as 10 times between its opening and 2006, with the floodwaters damaging large parts of the collection.

In August 2009, when the country was battered by Typhoon Morakot — which led to Taiwan’s worst flooding in 50 years and claimed the lives of nearly 700 people — many homes in Terong Village were severely damaged, as was the community library.

Before it could recover from the devastating effects of Typhoon Morakot, the library was further hit by another powerful storm, Typhoon Fanapi, in September 2010.

Last year, things finally started to look up for the library when the Pingtung County Government’s Cultural Affairs Department notified villagers of a plan to relocate the library to higher land.

“Thanks to the reporting by the [Chinese-language] Liberty Times [the Taipei Times’ sister paper] on the library’s dire post-storm situation, which caught the attention of different sectors of society, the Fo Guang Shan Foundation for Buddhist Culture and Education decided to make a generous donation of NT$3 million to facilitate the library’s relocation,” the department’s Division of Library Information chief Hsu Shih-wen (許世文) said.

After its relocation to the more spacious community center located in a higher-lying area, the library was reopened to villagers on June 17 this year.

“The concept of the renovated building’s exterior and interior design was inspired by what sunflowers represent — which is sunshine and vitality. Because of the attentive care of all villagers, the flower is at last able to bloom again,” Buddhist Master Yi Fa (依法法師) said.

Sunflower Library director Sun Jung-hsiu (孫榮秀), who also doubles as a voluntary worker at the facility, said that with the help of many officials of the cultural affairs department, the relocated library has also been successfully modernized.

“They not only helped categorize the library’s collection, but also installed a computer checkout system,” Sun said, expressing hopes that the love of reading could continue spreading through the community.

Expressing special gratitude to a benevolent woman, Tseng Chiung-hui (曾瓊惠), from Taipei City, Lee said Tseng had been sending box after box of books to the library for the past eight years.

“In an effort to encourage more young children to go to the library, Tseng even sent a batch of stationery to our facility,” Lee said, adding that her generosity often touched the many volunteers at the library.

Lee added he would sometimes send local fruits, such as wax apples, mangoes and bananas, to Tseng as a way of showing villagers’ appreciation for her efforts.

Tseng, who visited to the community following the reopening, said she started making donations after being deeply moved by the villagers’ meaningful devotion and effort in setting up the library.

“What they are doing is truly significant,” Tseng said, adding that selecting suitable publications and sending them to the library from time to time had become an integral part of her life.