Monday, October 20, 2008

A Different Perspective of National Libraries...

Contrary to what most people may think, even national libraries are struggling to survive. In war-torn Afghanistan there is no official national library. Therefore, the central public library in Kabul has taken up the role of playing the National Library of Afghanistan, for lack of a better library. All their books are pre-1980’s and the new books are only in the children’s section. Most of the staff have not taken any courses in librarianship, but have a visible desire to help out in any way possible. Gift books have been donated to the library from Iran and the United States, but are still shelved away, not catalogued and available to the public. Gholamreza Amirkhani, a professor from the National Library of Iran the academic Library of Kabul University and found it was a horrific place designated for book burning during the Taliban regime’s rule. He says, “At first I could not believe that books were still burned in the 21st century: however, seeing where it was done, I accepted this bitter fact.” (Amirkhani, 2002) During the Taliban’s regime (Infoplease.com, 2008) from 1996 to 2001 many of the books were burned to “restrict the books to the Pashtu language.” Although the central public library in Kabul has taken up the role of the National Library of Afghanistan, there is a multitude of work that needs to be done. The Afghanistan National Archive contains historical manuscripts and documents that were thankfully not harmed by the Taliban. These ancient treasures will be a catalyst to helping build up the National Library of Afghanistan’s own collection of work.
What are some suggestions to help the National Library of Afghanistan become a stronger and more publicized library? What other objectives could be thought to make the National Library of Afghanistan a thriving and actual place for patrons throughout the country?


Resources
Amirkhani, G. (2002). Visitors find War-weary Kabul Librarians struggling to rebuild. American Libraries, 33(11).

6 comments:

Nate Palmer said...

What a difficult situation. I think that if the National Library of Afghanistan wishes to survive, they will need to develop a strategic long term plan. They will need to devise a budget. They will need to develop objectives i.e. funding and tracking of funds—equipment, staff, training, services, etc. They may wish to call for help from other countries with that have resources to help them in their quest. Perhaps they could partner with world organizations that would help them with budget resources. The library should have short and long term goals in place. The goals should reflect the mission of the library. The library should have policies and procedures in place that will help them develop as a national library.

Jeehan said...

Here are my suggestions. First and foremost, there would be to have a group of professional librarins to train those currently working in the library. Second, some sort of funding which will continue to exist until other sources of funding are available. Thirdly, they would need to survey their community to see what kind of books they want and need. Books that can be acquired which would help to educate them in religion(s) and science would greatly help so as to encourage open-mindedness and a dislike to radical regimes that may creep up again.Fourth, an organization to oversee how the funding is being ditributed would also be necessary to ensure there is no corruption, something which is typical in developing /war-torn countries. I'm sure the professional librarians will then make sure that other national libraries collaborate with Afghanistans main library. Educating the community is also key. They need to know the purpose of the library as well as how to use and obtain information. Something that we take for granted in developed countries is that we grow up knowing what libraries are and using them regularly ,whereas,in a country like Afghanistan where a radical regime ruled for so many years education and libraries were obviosuly did not fit into their equation. Those would be my suggestions...on another note, isn't it ironic that an Iranian professor like Amirkhani"could not believe that books were still burned in the 21st century..."? Iran although much more developed also has a radical regime which, till this day,encourages book burning.

Kinga said...

It sounds like there is a flood of tasks that need to be done in Kabul. I wonder if there may be organizations that can channel volunteers to help out with basic tasks, such as shelving and cataloging the books that are there just waiting. I'm thinking, Peace Corps, or something similar. Publicity would increase the resources directed to Kabul whether it be money or manpower or know-how.
I imagine that the more trained individuals that would devote time and energy to the project, the better. Perhaps libraries from other countries offer help in some ways. In fact, this may be the most important task of all; to involve the international library community.

LaurieC said...

I am not sure for which I feel most sad- the fact that that their historical documents and culture have been destroyed or the fact that I have not thought of this aspect of the tragedy this country endures. The enormity of this task is much more than I could comment on here. In just the short while I have been looking at this topic, I see how complex putting this together will be, and daunting and costly. Of course it can happen, and while much has been lost, everyday history is built and if it has a place, it will grow. I see the National Endowment for the Humanities is providing grants to US organizations to retrieve and restore Afghanistan body's of work. I see articles on the NYPL's efforts to establish a digital collection and also a University of Arizona librarian, raised in Afghanistan is helping to restore academic library collections. She is working to build an open source ILS. Now will these be transferred to the Afghanistan libraries eventually- hmmmm, I wonder. Compiling and restoring what is left could have a rebuilding and "coming together" effect on the country- and also, with the drastic drop in literacy rates in the country- libraries are needed everywhere, not just on the national level.

MG said...

Organization within their library would benefit not only the library but its community. Once they classify the books more people will hopefully appreciate the library causing the community to build their library in the way they would like and possibly drawing more outside assistance. Assistance could then be given not only in the form of materials but in training.

Matt Smith (eb4217) said...

It sounds like they need a professional librarian that is a leader and willing to take on a huge project; and funding. With these two things they are on their way to getting books on the shelves that people need.