1 February 2010


News and Developments Regarding Libraries in Haïti

Bibliothèque haïtienne des Pères du Saint-Esprit (also known as San Martial)

Bibliothèque haïtienne des Pères du Saint-Esprit (also known as San Martial)
Courtesy of Dominique Franck Simon, director of the Alumni Association for San Martial College

This bulletin serves to inform the IFLA community about the current situation of libraries in Haïti and the many aspects of support that needs to be provided in the aftermath of the earthquake of 12 January 2010.

There are two IFLA members in Haiti: The Bibliothèque Nationale d'Haïti and the Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL), both located in Port au Prince.


On 15 January 2010, the director of the national library reported: "the building of the National library is safe, the shelves and holdings have shifted...we will prevail ... our building is the only one standing in the whole area. I have not yet been able to locate all the personnel,1/2 of them are safe we keep on checking. We will keep you posted." Later reports made clear that the building may still be standing, but both the building and the collections and other materials are heavily damaged. 

The FOKAL headquarters which holds the Monique Calixte Library, one of the most used libraries of Port au Prince, is still standing. The gardens and parking lot in the back have been transformed into a refugee camp for the neighborhood and library employees. At the peak time 600 people took refuge there. All FOKAL employees are accounted for, but most of them have lost their homes.

Saint Martial College in which there is the Bibliothèque Haïtienne des Pères du Saint Esprit collapsed. This is the oldest library in Port au Prince. The curator Patrick Tardieu is alive and currently in Canada. The Library of Saint Louis de Gonzague is heavily damaged. Both those libraries gathered very old collections (from the 16th century). Several manuscripts were brought by the missionaries who came from Europe. Other have been collected in the Caribbeans (notably, publications on the Haitian revolutions, transcriptions of oral voodoo traditions, personal documents from the 18th centuries).

Most of the university buildings were completely destroyed. The Library of the University Quisqueya is heavily damaged.
(Source: Bibliothèques sans Frontières - BSF)


On 15 January 2010, IFLA President Ellen Tise issued a statement in parallel with a Blue Shield statement.  In addition to the English original, we have also made available translations in Arabic, Chinese, German, Russian and Spanish.

In addition, the CfI (Comité français IFLA) issued a statement of support on the same date.

Danielle Mincio is IFLA's Haiti liaison for the Governing Board. 

Relief Initiatives

ABINIA (Association of Iber-American National Libraries), the National Library of the Dominican Republic, ACURIL (Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries) and the Graduate School of Information Sciences of the University of Puerto Rico are joining efforts to consider the protocol, the best strategies to assist libraries and archives. A joint inspection mission to Haiti, consisting of staff of the Dominican National Library, led by Mrs. Barbara Perez-Eguren was held on 21-22 January 2010.

Blue Shield initiatives include a special Haïti 2010 website requesting professional colleagues to register experts for hands-on support activities and consultancy. Additional news and correspondence will also be be made available through Facebook and Twitter. 

National Committees of the Blue Shield (US, France, Germany) are working with their partners over the next couple of weeks to establish a volunteer team to go to Haïti when circumstances allow and if needed.

Prince Claus Fund/CER (Cultural Emergency Response) has worked closely with IFLA on occasions like the Iraq war (2004) and the earthquake in Sichuan, China (2008). Their partner in Haiti is Fondation AfricAmerica.  CER is considering how to support the libraries sector in Haïti in its recovery efforts.  For more information, please see their Press Release of 26 January.

Next Steps

IFLA will give full support to relief initiatives for destroyed or damaged libraries in Haiti, focusing on collaboration with Blue Shield committees, ACURIL, ABINIA and the National Library of the Dominican Republic.

IFLA will promote Blue Shield initiatives to register experts and encourage IFLA members to provide expertise and consultancy where possible. Special attention will be paid to help for our two IFLA members in the country.

IFLA will seek collaboration with the CER of the Prince Claus Fund in Amsterdam, Netherlands in finding emergency assistance to libraries in Haïti.

IFLA has made the Stichting IFLA Fund available for any donations for Haïti libraries and will announce further information on how to donate.

IFLA will encourage all IFLA Officers to widely disseminate information to their constituencies on how to make expertise available, to consider volunteering for professional assistance and on how to make donations.

IFLA President Ellen Tise and President-elect Ingrid Parent are considering a visit to Haïti to meet with members; tentative dates are set for June 2010.

Cultural heritage, Disaster relief, Preservation, Haiti

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