Voices of the dignitaries and participants at the 17th Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL XVII) in Nay Pyi Taw

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Union Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture Thura U Aung Ko
This congress is held every three years. We hosted this conference for the first time. Members of delegates and observers totaling more than 700 are attending this conference. The culture of library is fading away in Myanmar. That’s why, our ministry arranged to host this congress after consulting with international experts to promote the role of libraries and to connect the libraries with our next generation.
We have a plan to upgrade the National Library, libraries at universities, in districts, townships and wards and to link them with each other. We find ways to link our libraries with others in ASEAN and Asia-Pacific nations.

U Aung Myint, Director-General of the Department of Historical Research and National Library
The development of libraries is very important because our next generation can learn a lot from libraries. Our government has also an ambition to develop libraries in our country. This congress would benefit us so that we can develop libraries. About 80 papers will be submitted to this congress.

Daw Hnin Yi (Head of Myingyan District Information and Public Relations Department)
These kinds of conferences provide a lot of support for mobile libraries in our regions and villages. There have been increased public interest libraries as people begin to realize knowledge stems from them and reading can change your life for the better. That’s why rural libraries are being
upgraded.

U Than Aung (Chairman of Myanmar Library Association)
The 17th Congress of Southeast Asian Libraries began in 1970 and so has been held for 48 years, once every three years. The 16th Congress was held in Bangkok in 2015. There they chose Myanmar as the next host country since Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos have not hosted yet. As a result, we held working meetings in 2016 and 2017 and decided to hold the congress in Nay Pyi Taw. When deciding for a motto we reviewed three suggestions each from the ten member countries, so a total of thirty, and we voted. We also chose ten mottos to supplement our current motto which resulted in 230 papers from ASEAN countries, Japan, Korea, Australia, India, and Bhutan. We managed to review 90 of the papers and the rest are displayed in posters. We focused more on information as we want to point out that libraries are also hubs for news and information.

U Khin Maung Aye (Head librarian of Yaung Kyi Oo Library, Kyipinkan Village, Myingyan Twnshp)
I’m attending with the purpose of sustaining rural libraries. People in rural areas have little knowledge and I believe that reading will lead to individual development and thus the development of the whole village. Our village library was set up by ourselves and is stocked with books to some extent. It is a bit small for reading inside though. These kind of weaknesses are common in rural libraries and so I wish for more support for them. I want the libraries to be a place people can read in ease and comfort.

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Ms. Christine Mackenzie
President
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
Public libraries are very important for development. School libraries are also very important. I understand that there is a lot of work being done at the moment and yesterday there was a big conference with 200 school librarians who are working hard to make sure children can learn about literacy and learn to love reading. I think that everybody can always learn from everybody else it doesn’t matter who you are.
It is wonderful Myanmar has been able to host this conference so it could be seen how the library profession has been able to engage the government because it is a really important thing that the government can understand how important librarians are. We look at a lot of libraries around the region for things like preservation of our memories, the heritage collections and how to provide public services to people and programs through public libraries. So there is a very wide range of programs. Over the next two days, we’ll talk about what is happening in the libraries in the region. I am sure that all the delegates here from Myanmar can learn a lot from the
people.

Ms. Rima Kupryte
Managing Director
Electronic Information for Libraries
My name is Rima Kupryte. I am Managing Director of EIFL, Electronic Information for Libraries. It is an international nonprofit organization which works in developmental areas with libraries in more than 40 developing and transnational countries. And we have a project in Myanmar. We started in 2013 so we have been visiting your country since
2013.
At the beginning, we worked with the two universities –University of Yangon and University of Mandalay— to bring access to electronic books, journals and databases and also to do extensive training not only for librarians, but also faculty members and students for accessing and searching electronic databases, and also basic information literacy courses. We had to start with basic IT courses so we had to set up e-mail address to communicate electronically. Then we expanded to more universities in 2018 and we are now working with additional six universities. So altogether we work with 13 universities here in Myanmar.
I imagine librarians from the country of Myanmar must be very proud to host this event. I attended this kind of conference in the past in other countries. I think one I remember was hosted by Singapore. I don’t remember which other countries hosted the conference, maybe in Vietnam. I think when I attended those two conferences I would always find one Myanmar representative. There will always be one librarian and most of the time someone from the National Library of Myanmar. So I imagine how grateful Myanmar librarians are. This event is taking place here and so many of them can attend this event. They can get a great learning opportunity. There are a lot of sessions and a lot of topics. I think Myanmar librarians will be presenting 19 papers. It is an international conference so there is a lot to learn. I think it is a great opportunity. I think librarians should be professionals. Modern libraries should be a great place to learn. Libraries are not just about books and reading; they are also about events and using modern technology, it depends on your vision and creativity.
So as I mentioned, we will be working with only 13 universities and school libraries. I know there are many more university libraries. They should be working together with university administration and the faculties to support the development of the country.

 

By Aung Ye Thwin, Hmwe Kyu, Kyaw Htike Soe
Photo: Ko Ko Soe Nyunt, Kyaw Zin Htike

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