BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- The Bayalinov National Library of Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek has much to celebrate this year - the 50th anniversary of the building and five-year anniversary of the library's American Corner.
The Bayalinov Library, in partnership with the Transit Center at Manas and the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, held a ceremony Jan. 24, 2013, to celebrate recent renovations to the building and an expansion of the American Corner. The U.S. Air Forces Central Command band, "Total Force," was on hand to play their first concert in Kyrgyzstan in honor of the occasion.
The Transit Center's Theater Security Cooperation division financed an approximately $10,000 humanitarian assistance project to renovate the library's two bathrooms. The 45-day project included freshly painted and tiled walls, as well as new floors, stalls, countertops, toilets and sinks. In addition, many of the sewer lines were replaced to fix a failing septic system.
"This was something the library asked us to do," said Staff Sgt. Michael Lazarus, Transit Center's Theater Security Cooperation division project manager. "We brought it down to bare bones and started from zero. We did all the work in hopes of making it last a long time. Especially with plumbing - it's the work that you don't see and appreciate until it doesn't work."
The library director said she certainly appreciates the bathroom renovations.
"We're thankful to the Transit Center because they looked into our problems and one of them was the bathrooms," said Rosa Sultangazieva, Bayalinov Library director. "I was embarrassed because they were in such bad shape. Now colleagues from other libraries come to see the renovations and are surprised by how modern and well done they are. "
The Transit Center's contributions to the library go well beyond the renovations. Transit Center members are regular participants in the library's American Corner talking clubs.
"I am proud that the Transit Center could undertake another partnership project with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. I'm most proud though that the Transit Center gave much more than just money to this library project," said Col. Corey Martin, Transit Center director. "Several times a week, Transit Center members gave their time, talent and intellect to American Corner events. Those meetings reached more than 8,000 Kyrgyz guests as we continue to build on a strong U.S. and Kyrgyz relationship."
American Corner at the Bayalinov Library is a public outreach program sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek. It is a place where library guests can go to study and read English books, participate in talking clubs and use free Wi-Fi. In honor of its five-year anniversary, the U.S. Embassy sponsored an expanded computer room with 30 new computers for public use. Expansions such as this directly contribute to increased use of the library, said Sultangazieva.
"There is saying that if your home is warm, bright and modern then you always want to go back to it. This is an example of what American Corner is," said Sultangazieva. "Readers enjoy coming again and again. In 2008, we had 1,113 readers. In 2012, we had 33,850 readers. You can understand how big a change that is and it's mostly due to renovations in American Corner."
The Bayalinova Library project was just one of more than a dozen projects the Transit Center and U.S. Embassy in Bishkek partnered on in 2012. Many more partnership projects are planned for 2013.