Neilson Hays Library Bangkok
Neilson Hays Library Bangkok - the Legacy of Jennie Neilson Hays
By Eric Lim
The Neilson Hays Library has its origins in early Bangkok in the latter half of the 1800s, when Silom was referred to as Windmill Road. It was 1869, a year into the reign of King Rama V.
In that year, the Ladies Bazaar Association in Bangkok, a charitable organization founded in 1866, raised funds for a library to cater for the reading needs of the increasing English speaking community residing in Bangkok.
Back then, it wasn't called the Neilson Hays Library but the Bangkok Ladies Library Association.
For a start, the books for the fledgling library were stored in a private residence. Later the Protestant Union Chapel in Charoen Krung Road took over this responsibility until 1900. (The Protestant Union Chapel later became Christ Church in Convent Road.) For the next 14 years the library was housed in temporary premises.
In 1881, Jennie Neilson, the lady who was to have considerable influence on the library and the present building, arrived in Thailand as part of the Protestant Mission. Jennie Neilson married Dr Thomas Heyward Hays, Chief of the Royal Thai Navy Hospital in 1887 and they moved to Bangkok.
From 1900 she was actively involved in the Bangkok Ladies Library Association for the next 20 years raising funds through annual bazaars to supplement the subscriptions.
The name of the library was changed to Bangkok Library Association in October 1911. In 1914, the association decided to buy a plot of land in Surawongse Road for a permanent home for the library to reduce the strain of rent.