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Assistance for Libraries, Information Services & Archives in Sri Lanka


10 January 2005

Today (Monday 10 January) the newly-established Sri Lanka Disaster Management Committee for Libraries, Information Services and Archives [SL DMC for LISA] held its fourth meeting and agreed a list of requirements to assist with the rehabilitation of libraries and information services and government records destroyed or damaged by the tsunami.

The opportunity is also to be taken to not only rebuild but also develop them so that they are in positions to play positive roles in the Government's ambitious plans to establish an e-Lanka. Time scales will obviously depend to a large extent on what becomes available but attention is being paid to those outlines in the Action Plans from the World Summit on the Information Society.

The lists that follow are still preliminary.

It is also still too early to prioritise items in them particularly because, although it has been possible to travel to view libraries by National Library staff as far south as Hambantota, it has not been possible yet to actually visit and survey those on the east coast where (as I write) cyclonic weather conditions are building to add to the misery caused by the tsunami and the monsoon floods that have followed it and where already damaged roads and bridges now have been made totally impassable. However it is known that many have been swept away entirely or severely damaged. See the Map. See also photos of damaged library buildings between Colombo and Hambantatota on the south-west coast.

The National Library and Documentation Services Board provide the executive and services for the SL DMC for LISA.

List of requirements


At this stage monies are probably the best form of assistance in that they can be speedily raised (perhaps by sponsored events such as marathons, coffee mornings etc. etc.), can be speedily transmitted and on arrival can be quickly committed and, in so doing, help to provide employment to local people.

Monies are required for:
  • Reconstruction and repair of severely damaged or destroyed buildings;
  • To purchase locally-published books in Sinhala or buy Tamil books from South India;
  • To buy locally-made furniture and equipment;
  • To engage foreign expertise.

Plans & Architectural Designs

Required to construct low-cost buildings particularly plans and designs that can be adapted to make use of locally-available materials.

Mobile Libraries

In order to be able to speedily restore services to users. First to be based on the National Library in Colombo until local buildings have been repaired or reconstructed. In obtaining this mobility there is the possibility of reaching the largest numbers of users.

Vehicles - x 2 or 3 of middle size (because roads are narrow and damaged).

Equipment and stationary to make them operational in the shortest time.

Stand alone computers and databases and modems to establish them not only as book-based lending libraries but also as communication centres. (Phone lines are being speedily restored).


  1. Designs for low-cost furniture to be manufactured locally;
  2. Display boards;
  3. Issue desks;
  4. Reading tables & chairs;
  5. Catalogue Cabinets;
  6. Librarians' tables & chairs;
  7. Book trolleys;
  8. Book racks;
  9. Other types of furniture i.e. kik stools etc.

Audio-Visual Equipment

  1. DVD players and discs
  2. CD Players and CDs
  3. Video players and tapes (although less of a priority because in the hot and damp climate they quickly deteriorate with mould);


Required to develop the libraries into information providing centres via ICT, Internet, on-line access etc;
  1. terminals, keyboards, printers, drives, modems;
  2. scanners (particularly for damaged government records that should have been destined for the National Archives).

Electronic Equipment

  1. Fax machines;
  2. Photocopiers.

Print & Non-Print Materials

Be aware that many of the destroyed communities had little knowledge of the English language and that the books primarily required will need to be in the Sinhala and Tamil languages. Nevertheless some English books will be welcomed particularly when they are suitable for young children (i.e. picture books) or are reference materials.
  1. childrens' literature;
  2. reference materials (including in CD formats);
  3. general reading;
  4. leisure reading (Sinhala & Tamils requirements are specially relevant here);
  5. special subject areas (that relate to the work and interests of the community before the waves struck)
    • fishing, prawn farming, ornamental fish farming;
    • small industries such as coir products, mask-making; gem cutting; milk food manufacturing; palm-leaf industry; boat building; carpentry; motor repairs including tinkering and body repairs;
    • paddy and cashew nut cultivation;
    • basic learning materials for foreign languages;
    • on Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.
  6. support materials for counseling (the huge numbers of traumatized people).

For Human Resource Development & Training

As part of human rehabilitation (in cooperation with the Sri Lanka Library Association) and to assist in the up-grading of knowledge and the acquisition of new skills (to work in the e-Lanka situations) training courses and operations will be established (MONEY) and outside expertise will be necessary (SKILLED EXPERTS)
  1. Money to operate the programmes and to pay for overseas experts;
  2. People with specialist skills;
  3. Required for the following areas:
    1. recovery and conservation of documents - especially govt. records as well as books;
    2. records management;
    3. conservation in general.
  4. Money & expertise to reinforce currently-existing training centres i.e. SL LA; National Institute of Library & Information Sciences; Dept. of Library Science, University of Kelaniya; National Library and Documentation Services Board.
  5. Crayons, water paints, picture painting books, paper - for traumatized children to go through catharsis and relieve feelings and express themselves.


Particularly of local government records many of which have been severely damaged not only by contact with water but by the force of it:
  1. expertise see above;
  2. specialist equipment
  3. mobile conservation units (to move on after assisting in one area)


  1. The National Library possesses few vehicles with which to move around the coastal belt - for instance moving around experts;
  2. It has no vehicles suitable for transporting large quantities of books and heavier equipment and furniture e.g. from the airport or ports to the venues requiring it.

Sponsorship / Adoption / Fostering / Links

A most practical means of assisting would be via sponsorship or adoption of, or twinning with, a devastated library in Lanka by one, or an organsiation, in a donor country.

The SL DMC for LISA would be delighted to identify a library on request and assist to get the links established and then to act as a 'go-between' in the preliminary stages.

As the rescue operations continue it is highly likely that more and different sorts of aid may become apparent.




Russell Bowden
Honorary Fellow of IFLA
KOTTAWA, Sri Lanka

Contact information:

National Library and Documentation Services Board (NLDSB)
14 Independence Avenue
Colombo 7
Sri Lanka
E-mail: dg@mail.natlib.lk or nldsb@mail.natlib.lk
Tel. +(94)(11) 26 87 58 1
Fax: +(94)(11) 26 85 20 1
Web site: http://www.natlib.lk or http://www.lankapage.lk

A special bank account in the NLDSB has been opened under the control of the Disaster Management Committee.

Monies can be sent with confidence to:
Account Number: 00 251 6200 739 63 at the Peoples Bank,
Park Street Branch,
Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Thank you.