State Counsellor DawAung San Suu Kyi delivered an opening speech at the opening ceremony of the 17th Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL XVII) hosted by Myanmar for the first time. It was held in Nay Pyi Taw Myanmar International Convention Centre-2 (MICC-II) yesterday morning.
The ceremony was attended by Vice President U Myint Swe, former President U Htin Kyaw and wife Daw Su Su Lwin, Union Ministers Dr. Pe Myint, Thura U Aung Ko, U Thein Swe, U Ohn Maung, Dr. Myo Thein Gyi, Nay Pyi Taw Council Chairman Dr. Myo Aung, Deputy Ministers, Ambassadors from ASEAN countries, Permanent Secretaries and departmental heads from the Ministries, congress representatives, Myanmar Library Association Chairman, executive committee members and other members, chief librarians from local and abroad and invited guests.
At first, artistes from Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture performed a musical dance with the ASEAN song.
Next, State Counsellor DawAung San Suu Kyi opened the ceremony by sounding the golden Mingalar gong.
In her opening speech, State Counsellor said that the Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians was launched 48 years ago, in 1970, to promote library and information development in the region, and to lead us towards greater participation in the international information community. One of its objectives is to provide a platform for the sharing and exchange of information and experience on issues in the field of librarianship, library and information sciences, documentation, information and related services in the region. The long history of the Congress stands evidence to the strength and unity of the organization.
The theme of this Congress, ‘Next Generation Libraries: Collaborate and Connect’, highlights the future role of the library and information services profession, a role that will be both challenging and exciting. Next Generation Librarians will have to collaborate and connect with each other to share their experiences and expertise and also to work towards innovative trends and new age technologies. Like all goals, there will be difficulties and obstacles along the way but I believe that the positive environment provided by CONSAL, will contribute strongly towards the removal of these challenges and help next generation libraries to be shaped positively and constructively. I am happy to have this opportunity to play a small part, through this congress, in promoting a love of reading among our people. Reading is fundamental to meaningful communication, not just across cultures but across the ages, giving us access to the past, the present and the future, all at the same time.
By instilling a love of reading in children at an early age, we provide them with magic carpets and spaceships that will carry them across physical and mental barriers to new, challenging worlds. By promoting libraries, particularly school libraries, throughout our country we shall not only be providing a necessary aid for the development of basic education but also an instrument for cultivating a love of literature, social sciences, history and humanities among our people.
Our government aims at establishing a strong library culture in our society and the level of enthusiasm is high. The desire for change among librarians is notable. We can make a difference to our libraries, enabling them to promote life-long learning through information literacy instructions integrated with library activities.
In this knowledge age, the role of libraries is changing. They have been identified as one of the key elements for open access to information. By providing a gateway to knowledge and culture, Libraries and librarians play a significant role in encouraging citizens to participate in society-transformation.
The Vision of the National Library of Myanmar, a governmental organization under the Department of Historical Research and National Library, is “to be a center of Myanmar literary heritage”. Hence, it collects and maintains ancient manuscript collections throughout the country. These are preserved at the National Library, Naypyitaw and the National Library, Yangon. A beautiful building, of the colonial era is being renovated in accordance with the recommendations of the Yangon Heritage Trust, and this will soon be our new, modernized National Library in Yangon.
The Myanmar Library Association (MLA), a non-governmental organization, is endeavouring to motivate reading and to improve access to and use of new technology for the promotion of information literacy development in the country. It is playing an important role in transforming libraries and librarians’ functions in Myanmar and in giving access to reliable information and knowledge. The Association has launched programmes to reenergize and develop school libraries with strong support from the Department of Basic Education under the Ministry of Education in Myanmar, the Asia Foundation, and other international organizations.
The majority of Myanmar’s population, i.e. 70%, live in the rural areas and it is essential to provide access to information for citizens who have no library facilities in their wards and villages. The Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization, was established in 2012 in memory of my mother and its purpose is to promote health, education and living standards of the people of Myanmar, focusing its attention on the needs of least developed areas. The Daw Khin Kyi Foundation started the first mobile library programme in 2013 in collaboration with the Ministry of Information.
We wish to provide library services, particularly for those who live in rural areas where there is little access to books. Our aim is to stimulate reading interest and to broaden the intellectual horizons of all our people, said the State Counsellor.
As the library is a hardcore necessity for higher education, it has to be restructured to align with the educational policy and revised curriculum of the Government. Public libraries take on the role of community centers for citizens by offering informal education opportunities.
Myanmar’s literacy rate of 92.7% suggests that the potential of libraries to support community development could be high, said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
This Congress provides an excellent opportunity for networking between Southeast Asian Libraries and Librarians, for promoting the collaboration and strengthening of library and library-related professionals in the ten member countries in Southeast Asia and also for ensuring sustainable development.
CONSAL recognizes the outstanding contribution of librarians in the region, for the region. It has positioned itself as an important element in the area of Knowledge and Information Sharing. Libraries are not fading away in the age of the internet and digital media.
On the contrary, everywhere they are taking on an even stronger role in community life, bringing together diverse peoples and providing access not only to books, but also to a variety of social activities, said the State Counsellor.
I would like to conclude by thanking all of you for your commitment to collaboration and connection among our next generation libraries. I am confident that the discussions that will take place over the next three days will be dynamic and fruitful. I wish you a pleasant stay in Myanmar, said the State Counsellor.
After her speech, the State Counsellor, the Vice President and guests attending the opening ceremony took commemorative group photo.
Following this, speeches were delivered by the Union Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture Thura U Aung Ko and International Federation of Libraries and Associations (IFLA) President Ms. Christine Mackenzine. The opening ceremony came to a close with artistes from Department of Fine Arts singing songs in honor of ASEAN and performing dances.
The Congress was then held in designated places. At the Congress, IFLA President conducted a discussion, Myanmar Library Association Chairman U Than Aung read out the message of the Myanmar Library Association Patron Sithu Dr. Thaw Kaung, Congress attendees were divided into six groups and read papers titled Access and Opportunities for All; Media and Information Literacy; Digital Library Management; Advocacy; Transforming Libraries; Strategic Alliances and Partnership; New Competencies and Training for Library and Information Professionals; Marketing and Promotion; Conservation and Preservation; and ASEAN Vision and Libraries it is learnt.