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Oral Culture and Library Acquisition
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Oral Culture and Library Acquisition



Is it right to walk into a community in a developing country and establish library services based on the ...

Is it right to walk into a community in a developing country and establish library services based on the
idea of libraries in the developed world? For two young Australian librarians, 18 months spent working in Vanuatu and Samoa as AusAID volunteers provided insight into the world of acquisitions, information poverty, the nature of aid and book donations. This paper attempts to determine whether the traditional Western concept of libraries with our strong culture of recorded/printed information works in a world where oral language and culture is valued more than written, what types of materials should be collected and how they can be acquired.



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  • KATIE The Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) program is an Australian Government AusAID supported initiative that aims to strengthen mutual understanding between Australia and the countries of the Asia-Pacific region and make a positive contribution to development. The Program achieves these aims by placing skilled 18 to 30 year old Australians (one more reason to apply for the job, I was 28 and a half) short-term assignments in developing countries in the Asia Pacific region. AYAD volunteers work with local counterparts in Host Organisations to achieve sustainable development outcomes through capacity building, skills transfer and institutional strengthening. <br />
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  • SUSANNE <br />
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  • Susanne: *concerned about state of the one public library in Samoa - dusty, dated collection* <br /> &#xA0; <br /> Experienced aid worker: "You know, if the Samoans wanted to invest in libraries, they&apos;d find the money to do it - just look at the churches." <br /> &#xA0; <br /> Susanne: *hopes that what she&apos;s doing in Samoa as a volunteer librarian is valued if other cultural institutions have greater priority* <br />
  • SUSANNE <br />
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  • KATIE - The tourists expect ..... <br />
  • KATIE - but are unprepared for this and are often shocked <br />
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  • SUSANNE <br /> <br /> KATIE - Situation similar in vanuatu <br />
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  • SUSANNE: <br /> <br /> KATIE: <br />
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  • Lamen Bay Primary School Library, Vanuatu <br /> <br /> KATIE <br />
  • Ulei Secondary School, Vanuatu <br /> <br /> KATIE <br />
  • Epi High School Library <br /> <br /> KATIE <br />
  • KATIE - Your old stuff, is still old in the South Pacific! <br />
  • SUSANNE <br />
  • Photo from meeting of Library staff involved in the Pacific Twinning Program (Vanuatu) <br />
  • SUSANNE <br /> <br /> KATIE: Digicell, mobile phones, technologies, MORE digital solutions are obviously needed. Digital content is CHEAPER to deliver than print material and can be updated easier! <br /> Digital content can easily incorporate more audio material and can be tailored to work well within a traditional oral culture. Many communities have mobile phones, but don&#x2019;t have wired electricity, or things that we take for granted such as waste management! <br /> <br /> Following on from this, we need to remember that rechargeable digital devices also need access to electricity. Highlight the need for more renewable energy sources such as solar. Better use of aid money than shipping out of date print books overseas just to see them end up mouldy and unused. <br />
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  • KATIE <br /> The creation and establishment of indigenous knowledge centres is a significant milestone in bringing groups of people into the library and information arena. An IKC &#x201C;could be somewhere that Indigenous cultural knowledge is kept safe to pass on to future generations, za place where Indigenous culture and knowledge is showcased to the wider community. An IKC could be a repository for community knowledge, a place where knowledge can grow, and a place for two-way cultural learning to occur.&#x201D; The State Library of Queensland&apos;s IKCs provide the services of a local library, act as a meeting place and provide a safe place to keep important artefacts, artworks and other information within the community. <br />
  • KATiE: No need to reinvent the wheel due to the fact that there are so many similarities between Australian and South Pacific indigenous oral culture. Let&#x2019;s share what we know with those who are organising foreign aid programs. <br /> <br /> In 2009 Natalya Godbold presented a paper called &#x201C;User-centred design vs. "good" database design principles : a case study, creating knowledge repositories for indigenous Australians&#x201D; at RAILS5 (research applications in library and information science) - http://www.communication.uts.edu.au/conferences/rails/abstracts-03.html#godbold <br /> <br /> Mention the film ten canoes, and how students really appreciated it and felt connected to the characters and the way of life that was depicted in the film! (Not to mention finding the main character attractive) <br />
  • KATIE: Make reference to the millennium development goals - http://www.ausaid.gov.au/keyaid/mdg.cfm <br />
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  • Samoa <br />
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Oral Culture and Library Acquisition Oral Culture and Library Acquisition Presentation Transcript

  • Oral Culture and Library Acquisition: Clash or Fusion? Katie Hannan & Susanne Newton ALIA Access Conference, September 2, 2010, Brisbane.
  • 2
  • Vanuatu • AYAD funded a 6 month position for a Librarian at Epi High School • The School is located in Lamen Bay, a small village to the NE of Epi Island • Epi is a small island with a population of around 5000 • Lamen Bay has an airport, a postal service, a few small stores, a market house and a hospital half an hours’ walk away. 3 View slide
  • Facts and Figures • Y-shaped chain of four main islands and 80 smaller islands; several of the islands have active volcanoes • Population: 218,519 • GDP 5400 USD, ranked 140th in the world [1] • In 2007 there were 37 libraries listed as belonging to the Vanuatu Library Association [2] • Local Languages (more than 100) 72.6%, Bislama 23.1%, English 1.9%, French 1.4%, other 0.3%, unspecified 0.7% (1999 Census) [1] • Only 74% of people over the age of 15 can read and write View slide
  • Samoa
  • Samoa • Polynesian Pacific Island Nation halfway between Australia and Hawaii • Population of 220,000 across two main islands with at least 100,000 more people of Samoan descent in New Zealand, Australia and America • Famous for rugby, fire knife dancing, tattooing, fales (beach huts), beaches, singing and dancing.
  • Facts and figures • Developing nation dependent on aid, remittances from family overseas and agriculture exports • Average yearly wage: USD5,400 (Australia: USD40,000) • Literacy rate: 99.7% [3]
  • Libraries in Samoa • One public library with two branches serves a population of 220,000 • Many Samoans have never accessed a library • Approximately 50 small libraries in country and about 10 qualified librarians • Major lack of computer access, no free public internet access available
  • Issues and challenges • Humidity / insects • Lack of local language material • Lack of money and IT infrastructure • Lack of skilled library workers • Vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters • Information poverty
  • Disparity • Different cultures have different priorities • Whilst Australian Libraries rely on the written word and a print based culture, • South Pacific communities value and invest in churches, community gatherings, music and oral tradition
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  • Challenges for Pacific Libraries • Books are expensive and hard to come by • Reliance on donations which are often poor quality, irrelevant or outdated • Unwillingness to throw anything away • Main sources of reading material are newspapers and the bible.
  • Rethinking Library Development – Tailored donations, partnerships • Appropriate collection development policies – Donations need to be suitable and tailored to the needs of the library in the developing country • Developing partnerships – Between AusAID and library associations, such as ALIA, Fiji Library Association, Vanuatu Library Association • Consider user needs as first priority, increase community consultation
  • Rethinking library development – Partnerships • Pacific Twinning Program [4] • An Australian Law Library is twinned with a Pacific Law Library to provide resources, support and training • Australian Law Libraries are twinned with libraries in Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Cook Islands and the Solomon Islands • Many library staff in these countries are running libraries with little or no training
  • Rethinking Library Development – Digital solutions • Building collections using digital solutions • Rechargeable e-readers have been trialed successfully in Ghana [5] • Trial found students could use the e-readers successfully without prior use of computers • Used infrastructure in place for mobile phones to download books and solar- powered car batteries to charge • Easier translation into multiple languages [6]
  • 37
  • Rethinking Library Development - capturing oral traditions • Indigenous Knowledge Centres in Australia have been successful in rethinking libraries for communities that have a strong oral traditional culture “Indigenous Knowledge Centres are breathing places ...they keep our culture strong for our children ... look after our traditions, songs, language, stories and artwork ... bring back the things that guide us today for the future ... combining a meeting place for traditional business with modern library services ...” [7]
  • Northern Territory Library • Building indigenous digital archives • Using cameras, computers, voice and video recorders, scanners and printers, community members capture old and contemporary art, maps, songs, photos, film events and record interviews [8] 39
  • Rethinking Library Development • Need to ensure that Australian library course curriculums include content on indigenous culture and the establishment of libraries in developing countries • More two-way exchange and increased opportunities for training of Pacific library staff
  • Conclusion • It is our duty, as information professionals to ensure that the libraries that we assist to establish in developing or underdeveloped countries are appropriate for the community in question and have the flexibility to evolve to allow for the involvement of community members.
  • Credits • Photos of Ulei Secondary School Library taken by Romany Manuell, 2009. • Photos of Lamen Island Primary School taken by Cyndy Hannan, 2007. References [1] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/nh.html [2] http://www.vanuatu.usp.ac.fj/library/VLA/Directory_2007.htm [3] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ws.html [4] http://www.alla.asn.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=159&Itemid=462 [5] http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/e-readers_help_literacy_in_ghana.php [6] http://blog.worldreader.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/WR-E-Reader-Trial-Report-Ghana.pdf [7] http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/about/who/orgchart/ils/ikc [8] http://www.gatesfoundation.org/atla/Pages/2007-northern-territory-library-our-story-indigenous-australia.aspx
  • For feedback • Katie Hannan – katie@lost.net.au – @katykat on twitter • Susanne Newton – susannenewton@hotmail.com – @susannenewton