Noken Pustaka: The Mobile Library in Papua

One of the vision and mission of the government of the Republic Indonesia that is listed in Nawacita is to increase the quality of education and the capacity of the Indonesian people. The government of Indonesia has a program to implement this vision called Indonesia Pintar or “Smart Indonesia”. The program is aimed to encourage the Papuan people to read. There are many communities which support this program. They also have the mission to decrease illiteracy in Papua and help the Papuan people to easily gain access to books. One of those organizations is Noken Pustaka or Noken Library.

“Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” Albert Einstein


Noken Pustaka

Noken Pustaka was established by Misbah Surbakti on 15 December of 2015 and he is a teacher in SMPN 19, Manokwari. He was originally from Medan, North Sumatera and he has the dream to establish Noken Pustaka. The dream came from his concerns to his students that have difficulties in answering the questions at a school quiz.

After he had a discussion with some of his friends in Central Java regarding this problem, he had the idea to make Noken Pustaka. The purpose of it is to spread the love of reading and improve the reading habit of people in Papua.

Noken Pustaka is not specifically targeted for a specific group, but children is the main focus. However, no exception is made for adults. Everyone can read the books that are brought in Noken Pustaka.

Reading can improve the cognitive skills of children. Thus, they will easily understand the point of a matter or the main idea of a sentence or a paragraph.

Noken Pustaka and Books

The word Noken in Noken Pustaka it self is a unique Papuan heritage that has been acknowledged by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. Noken is a bag that is made from tree roots and tree barks which is carried by draping it on the forehead. 

In Papua, Noken is a symbol of a good life, peace and fertility. Noken bag is used to carry crops, books, toys, even babies. The founder of Noken Pustaka said that Noken is a traditional creation made by the Papuan mothers that symbolizes life.

Noken Pustaka, The Moving Library in Papua
Noken Pustaka via

The books are donated from those who have the same concerns for Papua literacy, such foundations, book communities, publishers, and writers. The book collection is varied, such as cooking books, novels, history books, books with pictures, comics, biography, magazines, and textbooks for students.

Noken Pustaka Volunteers

Noken Pustaka is a moving library, hence they have some volunteers who are helping Misbah to distribute the books to the inland villages in Papua. The volunteers live in different districts. Some of the volunteers are Agus Mandowen and Kristofel Rumfabe (a Papuan born weight lifters), Anand Yunanto and some other volunteers who came from various background such as housewives, students and teenagers.

Noken Pustaka, The Moving Library in Papua
One of the volunteers of Noken Pustaka, Agus Mandowen via


In distributing the books, the volunteers have to use the existing resources, such as by walking, driving a three wheeled motorcycle and even riding a horse. The three wheeled motorcycle is bought from the donations of the people in Manokwari. The horse is a donation from a humanist named Nirwan Ahmad Arsuka, who also has Kuda Pustaka (Horse Library) in Central Java and Perahu Pustaka (Boat Library) in West Sulawesi.

At first, their efforts to convince the people to accept them and their books were hard, because they thought they were selling books. Fortunately, as time goes by, the people have accepted their presence and have even helped. The children have also happily read the books.

Noken Pustaka, The Moving Library in Papua
Noken Pustaka using a horse to carry books via


Currently, Noken Pustaka has grown. Besides Noken Motor (motorcycle library) and Noken Kuda (horse library), there are also Para-Para Pustaka (shore library), Rumah Baca Noken (noken reading house), Posko Noken (noken post), Noken Sepeda (bicycle library), Pondok Noken (library hut), and Perahu Noken (library boat).

Hopefully, this activity will continue and more parties will help in increasing the literacy and raising the education in Papua. Book donations are still needed and very much welcomed by Noken Pustaka, especially books with pictures. This new reading habit will give many benefits and bright future for the Papuan children.

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Maya Angelou.