My Ph.D. dissertation project in history examines the cultural and political history of libraries in Vietnam from 1887 to 1986. I will examine library reports, internal correspondence, and records of book lending, purchases, and circulation. I argue that the development of libraries and the curation of reading matter was key to the building of the colonial and post-colonial nation-states. Additionally I problematize the nation-state discourse of cultural institutions and will show how different communities of readers shaped the development of the library. I will examine newspapers, memoirs, and demands from readers in the colonial and post-colonial period to demonstrate the changing communities and influence of readers in Hanoi and Saigon. Thus my project is both a top-down and bottom-up study of builders and users of libraries in Vietnam My project comprises three parts: (1) a theoretical investigation of the library as an institution of knowledge, culture, and power; (2) a cultural history of Vietnamese reading practices and communities; and (3) a focused historical case study of five libraries—the two national libraries in Hanoi and Saigon, the Popularizing Library of F.H. Schneider and Nguy?n Van Vinh, and the private association libraries of the Society of Mutual Education and Annam Youth Party. These five national, regional, and private libraries provide a comparative understanding of the landscape of libraries in the colonial and post-colonial period. Furthermore, my longue durée study reveals how libraries such as the 'national library' had different functions, symbolic roles, and responsibilities under regimes of French colonialism, Communism, and anti-Communism. I will make conclusions about the relationship between libraries and the state and how libraries shaped public education, concepts of modernity and civilization, and state responsibility to democratic knowledge in the colonial and post-colonial periods.