About Christina John

Christina is a first year master’s student in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She holds degrees in English & History from Chicago's DePaul University. Currently, she works as a Graduate Assistant at the International and Area Studies Library. She also works as an Alumni Relations & Special Events Intern for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Advancement Department. In the past she has worked in archives, museums, and the eclectic world of breakfast cafes. She is currently interested in non-traditional librarianship specifically how information science can be applied to benefit the fields of prospect research, fundraising analytics, community informatics, and knowledge management.

National Libraries: Working to Preserve a Nation’s Cultural Heritage

Libraries are important cultural institutions that work to not only provide universal access to information and knowledge, but also preserve the cultural heritage and identity of the communities they serve. National libraries such as the United States’ Library of Congress or Spain’s Biblioteca Nacional de España work to achieve these objectives on a national scale.

Now, imagine the United States without the Library of Congress or the National Archives? What would happen to the Constitution? The Declaration of Independence? Or even the papers of our past Presidents? These materials are vital to understanding the values and tenants that shape our national past and future.

Unfortunately, the people of Afghanistan face this very issue. Decades of conflict have decimated the Kabul University Library, which also served as Afghanistan’s National Library.

An article written by Abdul Rasoul Rahin, a former director of the Kabul University Library, describes the once impressive holdings of the library. The Kabul University library held “200,000 books, 5,000 manuscripts, 10,000 books on Afghanistan Studies, 10,000 bound volumes of periodicals, 3,000 rare books, 10,000 electronic materials, 2,000 photo albums, 5,000 calligraphic specimens, and a strong collection of national archival and documentary materials.”[1] Like libraries all over the world the Kabul University Library worked to collect, preserve, and make accessible these valuable informational and cultural materials for the people of Afghanistan.

Sadly, the Afghanistan Civil War and other international conflicts have left the nation of Afghanistan in a state of turmoil since 1978. Since that time the materials of the Kabul University Library and other Afghani cultural institutions have been dispersed clandestinely over the black market or destroyed by fire and neglect. In the 1990s alone, “tens of thousands of books in both the Kabul Public Library and the Kabul University Library were destroyed under Taliban rule.”[2]

While conflicts continue to occur, positive efforts such as the Afghanistan Digital Library are working to both rebuild the libraries of Afghanistan and also preserve surviving Afghani collections and materials. A project of the New York University Libraries and supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities the Afghanistan Digital Library works with public institutions in Afghanistan and private collectors throughout the world in order to collect, catalog, digitize, and make available over the internet as many Afghan publications from the periods of 1871-1930, the earliest period of publishing in Afghanistan. Digitized materials will include rare books, historic photographs, newspapers, government documents, and journals.

In doing this the Afghanistan Digital Library will not only help in the process of “constructing a national bibliography for the country,” but also “reconstruct an essential part of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage.”[3] Most importantly however, the project will help bring the contents of Afghanistan’s history back into the hands of its people.

To visit and explore the Afghanistan Digital Library please click the link here.

[1] Rahin, Abdul Rasoul. “The Situation of Kabul University Library: Its Past and Present” World Libraries 8.2 (Spring 1998). Web. http://www.worlib.org/vol08no2/rahin_v8n2.shtml

[2] Lee, Felicia R. “Protecting an Endangered Afghan Species: Books.” New York Times 29 March 2003. Web. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/29/books/protecting-an-endangered-afghan-species-books.html?pagewanted=print

[3] “About the Afghanistan Digital Library.” Afghanistan Digital Library. n.d. Web. 22 October 2012. http://afghanistandl.nyu.edu/about.html


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Introducing Be Global

An image of the Be Global homepage.

Interested in pursuing international opportunities but have no idea where to look?

Eileen Walz, a recent UIUC Civil Engineering graduate and a current master’s student studying Library & Information Science felt the same way. Having herself studied abroad and participated in numerous service trips Eileen has tried to make the most of the international opportunities provided by the University of Illinois, but admits they were never easy to find.

Throughout her academic career, Eileen has been to Peru on a service trip, Croatia with U of I’s Entrepreneurs Without Borders program, and twice to Kenya for study abroad and an engineering class trip. After some reflection Eileen realized that she found out about these trips in four very distinct ways:

  1. Hours of searching Google and seeking a summer program that would be the right fit (Peru)
  2. Word of mouth from a friend who was also interested in the Entrepreneurs Without Borders program (Croatia).
  3. Information session sponsored by the Study Abroad Office (Kenya)
  4. A class trip for engineers taking CEE 449 (Kenya).

The Internet is full of information on international opportunities available to students, but all this information requires a lot of timely research and sorting. So, in the summer of 2012 Eileen set to work on creating the website Be Global.

The goals of Be Global are threefold:

  1. Create a site that combines all of U of I’s international opportunities in one easy to locate space.
  2. Increase student involvement in internationally oriented activities both on campus and abroad in order to foster global awareness.
  3. Provide a forum for students to share their global and international experiences.

Busy with classes, work, internships, homework, and everything else in between college students are hard pressed for time. In response, Be Global tries to capture anything and everything international and related to U of I. This includes everything from service trips, traditional study abroad, course trips, etc. With the help of a professor and a research specific topic, students can even self-direct an independent study that can take them overseas. The world is really a student’s oyster, and Be Global helps encourage students to make the most of it.

Eileen’s credits her own international experience to shaping the person she is today. From shaping her future career goals in community informatics, to simply inspiring a deeper understanding of history and humanity. This is why Be Global will soon introduce “Do Global,” a space where students and faculty can collaborate on future projects and share the lessons they learned form their own experiences abroad.  Eileen describes “Do Global” almost like an online catalog or database, that can be searched by categories.

Perhaps the key to Be Global‘s success will be student participation and interaction. If anyone knows of an international event, cultural dinner, linguistic event, or even a visiting international speaker Be Global wants to know about it. Such events help bring an international awareness to on campus students, and may ignite a desire for further exploration be it on campus or abroad.

For my information and to explore international opportunities please see:

Be Global: http://www.communityinformaticsprojects.org/beglobal/

Do Global: http://www.communityinformaticsprojects.org/doglobal/

Blog Written By: Christina E. John

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