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Horseback Library in Remote Indonesia
Art And Culture

Horseback Library in Remote Indonesia

Astride his white mare, a wide-brimmed hat shielding his eyes, Ridwan Sururi looks more cowboy than librarian as he winds towards the hilltop village, his horse Luna saddled with books.
Their arrival sends ripples of excitement through Serang, a quiet hamlet fringed by rice fields and a volcano on Indonesia’s main island of Java.
“The horse library!” children shriek, sprinting towards the mosque where Luna is tethered. Slung over her saddle are two handmade wooden boxes filled with books.
For many there, this unique mobile library is their only link to books. There is no traditional library nearby, and stores are miles away in big cities. It’s a problem for villages across the sprawling Indonesian archipelago, reports AFP.
Sururi, a 43-year-old professional horse groomer, devised a unique way to encourage reading in his district.
Armed with Luna, one of several horses under his care, and about 100 books donated from a friend, Sururi began road-testing his novel mobile library in early 2015, unsure if it would succeed.
It was a huge hit. In no time, the father of four was fielding requests from schools and villages further afield, eager crowds greeting him on arrival.
“The kids are always waiting. Sometimes they even form a queue, waiting a very long time just to borrow a book.”
In Serang, enthusiastic youngsters flick through picture books, young adult titles and even some classics in English.
Sururi believes the gentle nature of his six-year-old mare helps attract children, and pique an early interest in the books.
“The horse makes me happy,” said 10-year-old Arif, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, before settling in to read a book titled “Wild Animals”.
But it’s not just children discovering a love for reading via this charitable community library.

 Adults as Enthusiastic
Adults are almost just as enthusiastic, many pausing work and emerging from their homes as Sururi and Luna pass through the narrow lanes of one village.
Warianti, 17, perusing titles alongside her elderly mothers, said villagers of all ages benefited from Sururi’s visits, as most did not have time to source books elsewhere.
“The horse library helps increase the knowledge of local women through reading.” Adult literacy rates in Indonesia have climbed steadily in recent years, reaching nearly 96% in 2013, according to data from Indonesia’s Ministry of Education.
But some provinces remain far behind others. Central Java, where Sururi makes his rounds, is lagging in the bottom third nationwide.
Nearly 5% -- or close to one million -- adults in this mainly rural province remain illiterate.
“That’s the aim of the horse library, so that everyone can broaden their horizons, gain knowledge, become more intelligent,” he said.
Outside his simple home, Sururi has cleared an area where he dreams of building a permanent library, one stocked with many books and -- perhaps one day -- a computer.
But for now, everything is done by hand. The spines of all books are clearly labeled with a code for identification, and he keeps meticulous records so books are returned on time.
Like a conventional library, books are borrowed free of charge.

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