The government has ordered National Library staff to shutter a small coffee shop that has been their only source of income since a roof collapse forced the facility’s closure in June.
“I have been drinking coffee here for some time, although it is more expensive than outside,” said Art Roffel, who is doing research at the library, despite its closure. “It is a good way to make income from readers who come to the library.”
National Library Director Khlot Vibolla said that she received a letter in June from the Ministry of Culture requesting that the library and coffee shop be closed. That request came after a large piece of rotten ceiling fell to the floor.
“The library is closed, so the canteen must be closed too,” she said, referring to the letter’s contents. The library’s coffee shop, which was a source of additional income for library staff, was opened by a Cambodian family in early May, but was finally closed in late September, Khlot Vibolla said.
“I got 400,000 riel [about $100] each month from the canteen owners and I shared that money with the library staff for their gasoline expenses,” Khlot Vibolla said.
Since the library closed, she said, most staff members are financially strapped and fewer and fewer people are looking after the library.
“I want to get the library open as soon as possible but we are waiting on funds from the government to repair the ceiling and the roof,” she said. “If the library opens, the staff can get a small salary to support their families along with the money from the canteen.”
Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts officials said Thursday that they intend to reopen the library. “We do not want to keep the library closed, if it remains closed, it will have bad effects for the library staff,” said Hang Soth, director-general at the ministry. “When the library opens, so will the canteen.”