Plans to establish a National Library of Timor-Leste moved a step closer with the recent appointment of a library specialist to guide its development.
Karen Myers, an Australian librarian with significant East Timor working experience, began a 7-month contract in mid-January.
Her appointment follows international advertising in September 2010 through the Italian oil company, Eni, which is contributing substantial funds to the National Library project.
The broad shape of the new institution as a national coordinating body for all libraries in Timor-Leste is outlined in a recent government statement.
The contract library specialist tasks include input into design of physical infrastructure, legal framework for the library, cultural and educational policy statements, training requirements, human resources planning and collection and acquisition policies.
Prior to coming to Timor full-time in 2006, Karen worked in a public library service in Victoria and, from 2002, periodically did library work and training at the National University of Timor-Leste.
She worked through Australian Volunteers International in 2006-7 in advisory roles and course development work at the Dili Institute of Technology. In 2007-9 she was advisor to the Documentation Centre of the Post-CAVR Secretariat.
National Library and Archives
CHART has a special interest in the emergence of the National Library for three specific archives-related reasons.
What’s in a name?
The new institution is called the National Library and Archives on the Secretary of State for Culture website. There was some speculation in 2009 that the new institution might incorporate the existing government archives (Arquivo Nacional) and/or some other smaller special interest archives emerging in Timor-Leste (see our brief report here). We look forward to learning more about the expected archives functions in the new National Library.
CHART is currently planning a significant digitisation program of Australian-held Timor archival materials. We hope to arrange public access to these files through emerging institutions in Timor-Leste. An archives function at the National Library would make the new institution a potential candidate for such an arrangement with CHART.
Today’s publications, tomorrow’s archives
Our 2003 report on archives developments in Timor-Leste noted that “there does not yet appear to be any institution committed to collecting output from today’s East Timor. Today’s newspapers, books, images, leaflets, radio broadcasts and so forth are tomorrow’s archival record of East Timorese civil society in its early life as an independent nation.” (p.11). We await with great interest to see whether the emerging National Library will take on this important role.