Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Library community response to Haitian crisis

In the wake of the tragic earthquake in Haiti, many Canadians jumped to respond to the pleas for aid and cash donations. These have gone to rescue, aid and medical supplies to address the urgent needs. The CLA has joined the chorus of voices offering support for Haiti, particularly our many colleagues there.

In the January 22nd issue of the CLA Digest, the following message was sent out tour our membership:

On behalf of our members, CLA expresses sympathy for the loss and devastation suffered by our colleagues in Haïti. Humanitarian aid is the first priority. There are many agencies in Canada that are soliciting donations for humanitarian relief efforts. Our IFLA colleagues from the Latin America & Caribbeanregion have also suggested that donations be directed either to UNICEF or to the Pan American Health & Education Foundation.

A very sad time and our thoughts most certainly go out to the many Librarians and all Haitians who have suffered such an immense tragedy. The sights and reports out of Haiti have certainly been harrowing, and CASLIS Toronto joins the CLA in expressing deep condolences to all of those who have been affected by this tragedy.

In the long term there will also be continuing needs for restructuring and rebuilding a country which had very little to begin with, and which has even less now. Below is information (as we have it) regarding the current state of Haitian Libraries and the response by the Library Community.

By way of the Conference Directors of National Libraries, CLA also published a brief statement from Françoise Beaulieu-Thybulle, the Director-General of Haiti’s National Library

The building of the National library is safe, the shelves and holdings have shifted...we will prevail ...our building is the only one standing in the whole area. I have not yet been able to locate all the personel, but half of them are safe...we keep on checking. We will keep you posted

The Literacy Organization, Haiti Reads is working on the ground and currently advocates diverting funds to the immediate relief efforts, but asks those of us in the library community to keep them in mind in the future for their restructuring efforts.

This rebuilding process will be long and challenging, given the extent of the destruction. Our colleagues in Bibliotheques Sans Frontieres recently forwarded the following update to some of the Listservs:

We have a contact with Patrick Tardieu who is an archivist in the oldest library in Port au Prince, Bibliothèque des Pères du Saint Esprit. Fortunately, he's alive and flighted [sic] yesterday to Canada. The first information we have are:

- Saint Martial College in which there is the Bibliothèque Haïtienne des pères du saint esprit collapsed

- The St Louis de Gonzague library building would be ok but very weakened

- The national Library collapsed, at least a part of it

- Most of the university libraries collapsed too

Those libraries gathered very old collections (from the 16th centuries).Several manuscripts were brought by the missionaries who came from Europe. Other have been collected in the Caraibs (notably, publications on the haitian revolutions, transcriptions of vaudou oral traditions, personal documents from the 18th centuries).

The International Federation of Library Associations has a News and Developments Regarding Libraries in Haiti page which is dedicated to the current state and the efforts necessary in moving forward in Haiti; this is a joint project with several different organizations, facilitated by our colleagues at IFLA. The initiatives include ways in which both time and money to support this cause, as well as social media tools to stay connected to the ongoing challenges and restructuring efforts.

As well, for our members in the Legal field, the Law Library Microform Consortium is creating a special Haiti Collection:

On the theory of everybody doing what they can, we at LLMC have decided that the most immediate contribution that we can make is to give priority to assembling a comprehensive Haiti legal collection and bringing it online as quickly as possible. So we will be giving this project priority during the first half of 2010, and hope to have the bulk of the titles becoming available later in the year.
(Full text of press release available here)

We know that the Library Community is a caring and supportive one, so we urge you to take a look at the available programs, and consider the many ways in which you may be able to help those who have lost so much.

Eileen Lewis
CASLIS Toronto Vice-President

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