Celebration of BYU Library Volume #3,000,000:
Rural Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines - A Field Manual for Botswana
(Not Poetry Per Se)


When, in 1988, the BYU Library acquired its three millionth volume, it was time for a big-time celebration (to the degree Mormons let their hair down and celebrate). Thus, in solemn tones, I presented the following lecture -- showing, telling, and celebrating the three millionth volume added to our collections:

(Spoken with Latvian accent:) 

It is with proud you-mility that I stand before you giving few brief remarks about wolume number 3 Million, entitled: "Rural Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines: A Field Manual for Botswana." (May I ask for a wolunteer to be turning pages for me, please?) 


 I want, you should appreciate, this wolume was not a random choice. It hyas many fine features and scientifical walue to be recommending it. Fyrst of all, it is member of a series. It is a serious choice. It is actually "Tag Technical Note, No. 8." I figure, if someone says, "This book is too good to stand alone, we have to have more just like it..." then that is proof to me of its walidity and impact on the academic world. 

Speaking of the academical world, this book is a favorite before it even hits the shelves. It has already been critically acclaimed in warious schools of interpretive thought, among them, those of Marxism, feminism, and deconstructionism. 

Please show front cover to everybody. (point


It hyas nyifty sketch on front cover of two zebras dancing on their hind legs. The Marxist scholar Vladimir O'Connor has pointed out that this is symbolical of the uprising of the exploited masses against the decadent imperialistic capitalists. (Please turn to page 5.) 

The cutaway view on page 5 shows further metaphorical informations for Marxist scholarship. Above the head of a sitting proletariat is a ventilation gap. This has only one possible interpretation: it points to the glorious October revolution of the Bolsheviks in Mother Russia, which aired out the stink of the Czars, cleared away the air from opium of the masses, and was a window of opportunity upon a thousand points of socialist light. The vent-pipe capped with a fly screen further substantiates this. What could better represent the recent events in Eastern Europe? The removable cover-slab, of course, has been removed by Comrade Gorbachev. It now remains to be seen if the seat insert will hold the weight of his convictions. 

(Please turn to page 9.) 

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The feminist interpretation is even more convincing that that of the Marxists. Feminists hail this work as a landmark volume. And in fact, it may leave its mark on the land. The sociologist Bella Brutta points out that this volume advocates "self-help construction." (point to picture) In other words, don't look for any help from chauvinist males. (Please turn to page 10.) 

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The point from this page is that male-dominated society is the pits, (point) and all that is required is a good vacuum tanker truck to make things good again. In this interpretation, the removable cover-slab is removed, not by Mikhail Gorbachev, or any other power-hungry man, but by the tools of feminist persuasion.( Please turn to pages 12 and 13 to show what these tools are.) (point) (point) 

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Notebook, tape measure, spirit level, wheelbarrow, spade, pick: of all these, perhaps the spirit level is the most important, since we know where the spirit level of most men is. 

(Please turn to page 27.) 

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The arguments of the deconstructionists have centered on the last half of this waluable wolume. You see, here it says "Preparing to construct the superstructure." And I'm sure you will all agree (turn to front cover again) that this is indeed quite a super / structure. Once you know from what materials it was constructed (back to page 29, please) then it is much easier to deconstruct it. 

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Some of the main elements are bricks or blocks, a door frame, roofing sheets and thatch. This is a perfect example of the deconstructionist proverb which says: " Bricks and blocks may knock off your socks, but the deconstructionist game impinges/ on getting that door frame off from its hinges." This is not as easy as it sounds, since the construction may be rectangular (page 30, please), 

in which case the seat insert is, of course, 250 millimeters from the support wall. 

Or it may be circular, (p. 36 please), in which case a thatch roof and Pi-R-Squared come in very handy. 

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I personally find that even on undisturbed soil, deconstructionist thinking collapses. 

There is even a school of thought known as the neo-generative comparative structuralist school: the neo-generative comparative structuralist school points to the difference between the ventilated pit latrines of Botswana and those of Tanzania which are lifted up in high groundwater table areas. There is a need for steps (four steps) (for four steps) up to the raised staging area. The main distinction this school makes between the ventilated pit latrines of Tanzania and the guillotine platforms of late l8th century France is that the stairway to the guillotines had at least 9 more steps. This is an important distinction. 

No matter which school of interpretation you may prefer, the advice on page 44 is very practical.(p. 44 please). #1. "Keep the superstructure clean and in good repair," 

and #2. "Ensure that the entire family uses the latrine."  (both for #1 and #2)

This is reminiscent of the motto of the Botswana National Bank: "Everyone should please be making their deposits here." 

One final note:"Botswana" spelled backwards is actually "An-naw-stob." 

And so now I will stob. 

Thank you. 


 - Richard Hacken 

2009 News Update: This real actual book, co-published by the World Bank, celebrated as the three-millionth volume (sort of) used to be resident in the BYU Library at call number: TD775 .N68x 1983, but has since been removed from the collection, presumably by somebody for whom the metaphorical message was too, umm, strong. 
Also note that the TV series of The #1 Ladies Detective Agency now gives a more flattering image of Botswana.