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Joint Kosovo Libraries Mission of UNESCO, CoE and IFLA/FAIFE

PRESS RELEASE : for immediate release
March 10, 2000

Kosovo: Libraries severely damaged and an urgent need for support of education and culture at local level

The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the library professionals in Kosovo face a major task to reconstruct library buildings and re-establish library services at all levels. This is the overall conclusion of an assessment of the situation concerning libraries performed by a joint expert mission of UNESCO, the Council of Europe (CoE) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, IFLA.

The mission has been carried out during the period from February 25th to March 7th by Mr. Frode Bakken, County Librarian of Buskerud, Norway (former president of the Norwegian Library Association) and Mr. Carsten Frederiksen, Deputy director of the IFLA / FAIFE Office in Copenhagen, Denmark. The mission has been generously supported by the librarian's organisations in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

The National and University Library and other special libraries are in decay, the preservation of cultural heritage in terms of printed materials endangered and the national systems to record and disseminate documents are practically out of function. Large parts of the valuable collections in the National and University Library have been removed and probably destroyed during the period 1990-1999.

Many public and school libraries, especially in the countryside, have been totally burned down, others have had their book collections removed or destroyed, and those who are still functioning suffer from the effects of almost 10 years of neglect in acquisitions. Equally many library books have been burned along with the homes of users. An estimated total of almost half the stocks of all the public libraries are lost. A great part of the remaining books are either outdated or irrelevant to local inhabitants due to their ideological, linguistic or ethnic character. Practically all equipment has been removed and most of the present staff needs training after a long period without professional practice and systematic education.

There is no co-operation, or even contact, between professionals of the ethnic Albanian majority and professionals in ethnic Serbian enclaves.

In general there is a heavy need for reading rooms, children's literature, current professional literature and access to new technology. International support in terms of funding and professional assistance is now needed to reconstruct libraries and a functioning library network.

Library services may be an important, and fairly easily applicable, tool in the promotion of reading, education and culture in a region with few or no other offerings and a population with a large share of children and youth. Libraries may, not least in an area like Kosovo, provide local gateways to knowledge, reflect the plurality and diversity of society and support the process of democratisation.

The full report of the joint UNESCO, CoE and IFLA mission including suggestions for rehabilitation guidelines in short and medium term will soon be available on this site.

Carsten Frederiksen, IFLA/FAIFE Office, 10/03/00


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