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Tsunami Report and further developments

6 January 2005

At the request of UNESCO, responding to the Director National Library of Sri Lanka's request for assistance and Russell Bowden's report of his travels down the devastated coastline south to Galle and Matara, Russell Bowden with the Sri Lanka Library Association and the National Library, urgently convened a meeting at which Unesco's Advisor for Communications and Information in Asia and Pacific, Dr Susanne Ornager, was present from Delhi. The purpose was to assess the damage to libraries and information services of all types and to begin to plan programmes of rehabilitation.

The National Library has identified, either as destroyed or damaged, 177 school libraries, 53 public libraries and 68 libraries attached to religious institutions.

It is likely that more will be discovered particularly in the east where rescue work and investigations are further hampered by flooding from the northeast monsoon as roads become passable.

More information will be gathered on the scale and details of the damages i.e. to buildings, book stocks and equipment. The meeting agreed to establish a library disaster committee comprising representatives of the National Library, the Library Association, the National Science Foundation and other similar organisations and with Unesco (Dr Ornager and with IFLA (Russell Bowden). Its terms of reference and a Constitution were quickly drafted to be approved by a meeting tomorrow (January 7th 2005) and for agreement to be reached on short-term measures needed to gather information and plan the long processes of rehabilitation and to cost out these processes.

A decision was taken in principle to use the opportunities represented by this tragedy to not only rehabilitate but also to develop libraries and information services so that they could play major and positive roles in achieving the Government's aims of an e-Lanka and to try to accord with the time scales made clear in the Action Plans emerging from the Geneva World Summit on the Information Society.

Meeting on 7th Januaryb 2005 will consider these issues further and then examine how funds can be raised to undertake the work.

Russell Bowden
Honorary Fellow of IFLA
KOTTAWA, Sri Lanka

"We urge, further, that members of the Federation, who have information on needs or have the means to help in kind and materially do so and share information through IFLA-L, to facilitate IFLA members' appreciation of assistance required and development of coordinated strategies for long term assistance."

Kay Raseroka
President of IFLA