Demokratische Republik Laos: Kongdeuane Nettavong

I have a dream for Lao children to have bright and clear faces, happiness in their mind, when they are reading books. This is why I am eager to dedicate my time to them.

— Kongdeuane Nettavong

Kongdeuane Nettavong was born in 1947 in Muang Chiang Kwang, northern Laos. After finishing secondary school in 1970, she went to Laval University in Quebec, Canada for her Bachelor’s Degree in Geography, then to France in 1973 for her Master’s degree in Archives. She has pursued a literacy program for the Laotians by setting up libraries, publishing books in Lao and encouraging people to read. She has been Director of the National Library of Laos since 1989.

Normally, Lao officials retire at the age of 55. But not Kongdeuane. Even after she retired, the government asked her to continue working as director of the National Library of Laos. Apart from her routine work in the office, Kongdeuane has created many projects to improve the literacy of the people of Laos, such as the "Literacy Cultivation Project" built on three strategies: encouraging people to read books, encouraging the publication of Lao textbooks, and setting up school libraries, people’s libraries, libraries for the masses and Knowledge Development Centers in villages, districts, and at provincial levels. She also introduced the idea of book bags and book boxes to collect book donations for schools in remote areas that do not have libraries. Kongdeuane delivers the donated books herself through the Caravan Puppet Theater, which she heads, using puppet theater to encourage children to read. She usually supervises the construction of the libraries herself, designs and produces the puppets with her team and performs and provides the voices for puppet shows. Another project is the Preservation of Lao Palm Leaf Manuscripts Program. Her team goes around the country surveying palm-leaf manuscripts in the temples and training villagers to restore decaying manuscripts and keep them in a safe place, thus preserving the cultural heritage and wisdom of the Lao nation. Kongdeuane also initiated the Archives of Traditional Laotian Music Project, which has recorded in VCD format the music of the minority ethnic groups in Laos and encourages the training of the new generation in traditional music. A music lover who plays the khan, she has taken the initiative to transcribe khan music and sounds and compare these with international notes.

National Library of Laos