A Tour of Chiang Mai’s Recently Renovated Raintree Library

 | Mon 31 Mar 2014 10:40 ICT

Some might say that the rise of e-readers and tablets have negated the need for good old-fashioned libraries, but I for one strongly disagree. Libraries are special places where the joy of reading and learning and being transported outside the confinements of one’s own existence can be found without even leaving town, something that is especially important for growing children.

The Raintree Library

Here in Thailand, there can be a rather discouraging lack of resources for reading, but there are a few bright spots. One of these spots is the Raintree Library and Resource Centre, located on the corner of Chareon Rat and Chareon Muang Roads, just across Narawat Bridge.

While founded and maintained by the Chiang Mai Community Church, Raintree operates as a resource for anyone and everyone in Chiang Mai, with a special focus on new expats looking to learn the ins and outs of living in Thailand. The cost of a lifetime membership is 100 baht, and membership is open to anyone living in Thailand for six months or more. Members can check out books for two weeks at a time, anytime.

New mural in the children’s section

Raintree began about 14 years ago, when people leaving the church to move overseas left their books behind. At the time, there were few other resources in Chiang Mai for English language literature, making Raintree a welcome addition to the growing expat scene.

“We’ve had thousands of members over the years,” says library chairman Janet Greenleaf. “Of course, people come and go a lot.”

The library, which was recently renovated and reopened just last month, has received new flooring, a new paint job and a beautiful new mural created by students from Rajabhat University. Today, it has a homey atmosphere, with plenty of space for settling down with a book, and features a wall of DVDs, magazines, and two rooms of books, including fiction, nonfiction, youth and a spacious children’s section with picture books and comfy floor pillows. There are a lot of Christian books mixed into the collection, but you’ll also find popular secular authors, from Leo Tolstoy to John Steinbeck to Donna Tartt to Danielle Steele.

Volunteer staffers Janet and Maya

Every item in Raintree’s collection has been donated, and the staff is made up entirely of volunteers, hence the rather short opening hours of just two hours every day (10 a.m. – 12 noon, every day except Wednesdays). Sundays feature additional afternoon hours from 3 – 4.15 p.m.

Donations and volunteers are always appreciated. The library accepts new and used books, DVDs and magazines, as well as clothing, which they donate to local refugees or add to their unique community maternity closet, which features borrowable clothes for pregnant women, available to anyone who needs them.

Raintree also hosts regular workshops, seminars and classes. Their Newcomers’ Orientation, which is now held three or four times per year, features a half day of activities for newbies in Chiang Mai, including a market tour and a Thai culture seminar. They also offer occasional cooking classes and craft workshops (such as flower arranging and soap making) which anyone can participate in for a nominal fee (usually 100-200 baht). Raintree also publishes its own Chiang Mai newcomers’ guidebook as well as a book on giving birth in Chiang Mai, both of which are available for purchase (50 and 40 baht, respectively) at the library.

Some of the library’s fiction offerings

3 Charoen Muang Road, 2nd door east of the police box at end of Nawarat Bridge

Open daily, 10 a.m. – 12 noon (Closed Wednesdays), with additional opening hours on Sundays, 3 – 4.15 p.m.


[email protected]

053 262 660