Text by Avant Shrestha
The infiltration of information technology has brought in great changes to how we acquire and process knowledge and information. What was difficult to obtain some years ago is today within reach of our finger tips. However this advancement in the ecosphere of information and technology has its draw backs in some areas; one such is libraries and the reading culture.
Although students, scholars, researchers and readers frequently visit the few operating libraries in Nepal, the number of visitors has decreased substantially. Yet, iHub Kathmandu with its unique business model has been thriving over the past four years. iHub Kathmandu is not just an ordinary library, it’s a hub created to offer a space to read, study and connect online as well as a space that fosters innovation and supports entrepreneurship.
In June 2015, the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) and the U.S Embassy Kathmandu opened iHub Kathmandu on the ground floor of FNCCI headquarters as a library, programming and creative space. The resource center offers entrepreneurs incubator desks – a work space and access to a specialized books and computer material. It is also open to the general public with books and programs for children, students and adults.
Tshering Tamang, Program Coordinator of iHub explains, “FNCCI had its own library here; we just needed to upgrade it”. iHub is open daily from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm in the summer and 11:30am to 4:30pm in the winter, also functions from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturdays. The annual membership is Rs.1000 and students are entitled to 50% discount; the entrepreneur membership costs Rs. 2000. According to Tamang most of the workshops, film screenings, talk programs and events are done for free apart from nominal charges on refreshment and travel.
Supported by the US Embassy, a Makerspace was established at the Innovation Hub to support hands-on learning in an informal and creative environment where people could share resources and knowledge. The primary motive is to encourage entrepreneurship by providing a technology-centered space where young Nepali innovators and entrepreneurs can explore and develop a culture of creating and nurture peer-to-peer learning in an informal setting.
Among the many resources iHub has to offer, the most intriguing is the Laser Cutter and 3D Printers that can be used by those familiar with the functioning of the equipment. Other can participate in workshops to learn the correct application of the equipment. “Such workshops and initiatives provided by iHub are totally free, however the only drawback is that they usually have limited space,” shares Tamang.
iHub also provides startups and entrepreneurs with mentorship in collaboration with various organisations. They also host a ‘Business Talk’ where they invite successful business persons to share their story.
Innovation Hub Kathmandu funded by the US Embassy. They have also initiated as digital library where members receive an ID and password and can use the digital library from any location. But the usage has remained very low and now full access to the digital library has been cancelled. Tamang says, “We feel like this was a huge opportunity that we lost especially for students and researchers”.