Chanthy in front of her ISF Community Library

Chanthy Finds a New Life Through Words

When harsh hair dying chemicals began to damage her health, Nov Chanthy closed her home salon and was on the lookout for work. So once her father fell ill, she readily took on his old job. She now continues his work as an ISF community librarian, promoting reading culture in Phnom Penh’s Damnak Thom neighbourhood. 

Part of the reason she took over the role was to improve her own reading habits. Due to chronic illness, Chanthy dropped out of school at age three, then began working not long after. This meant that the access and introductions to literature that education provides were missing for her. Now surrounded by books, she’s encouraged to explore a world of prose. After four months, the inquisitive 30-year-old has fallen in love with her new job. She finds it not only is it safer than her previous one, but it also increases her literacy skills. Her newfound passion for the written word has made her a evangelist. Chanthy spends her days enthusiastically helping children in her community, including her young son, understand the importance of reading. 

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Since working as a librarian is quite new to her, Chanthy has faced some challenges. In the beginning, she found it difficult to work with younger children. Some didn’t listen to her and disturbed other readers by making noise. Though after working with them, she’s learnt to communicate with the youths much better. These days they see Chanthy like a teacher. She does her best to guide novice readers on their learning journey. She also sometimes reads stories to the youngest visitors.  

Report writing and inventory management also posed problems for her. However, after receiving guidance from her father while spending time on the job, she’s become more familiar. Helping readers young and old locate suitable reading materials, maintaining library records and performing regular audits are now second nature to her. Our Community Engagement team also gives regular support and coaching to Chanthy when she faces any difficulties. ISF has provided her librarian training and basic computer courses as well to ensure she’s empowered in her job.

In one of the community library’s quiet moments, we asked Chanthy about her own path to becoming a reader. She said, “Growing up, I didn’t read much and knew very little about what is going on in our society. But because of this job, I’ve become more interested in reading and getting to know more about my own country as well as the world.” She hopes to see more children, both in and out-of-school, adopt the habit of reading.