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Khmer Civilization and Tradition (in English)Posted: 2009-10-01 22:41:40   Replies: 0
Cambodia Libraries (2)

One of the most exciting developments in the library sector over the past decade has been the growth of libraries within tertiary institutions. Most prominent is the Hun Sen Library of the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), which opened in January 1997. Previously the university's central library had been housed in classrooms in the main university building. The collection was limited in scope and the library used infrequently. The purpose-built Hun Sen Library at RUPP now houses a collection of more than 50,000 items in Khmer, English and French, is open six days a week and used by over 500 students each day.
Private tertiary institutions in Phnom Penh have also established their own libraries. One of the largest of these is the Toshu Fukami Library of the University of Cambodia, which is open to the public with over 30,000 volumes. The core of the UC Library was established with the transfer of the Media Library, originally established by the NGO Japan Relief for Cambodia.
Academic institutions, both public and private, are seeking ways to co-operate to provide better services for library users. Some key libraries in Cambodia are in the process of forming a library consortium so that they will be able co-operatively access expensive databases usually only available to libraries in developed countries which can afford the subscription rates. Such innovations in other developing countries have helped students and researchers to access the vast amount of information that is available in specialist areas.

The National Assembly and Senate have established their own libraries to serve the needs of parliamentarians, parliamentary commissions and their staff, while government ministries also have their own document collections. In addition, the Senate Library is open for use by students and government officials.
The one major library outside of the capital may be found within the privately-run Centre for Khmer Studies (CKS) in Siem Reap, located in a beautiful free-standing building in the grounds of Wat Damnak. The Centre for Khmer Studies (CKS) Library focuses on Khmer Studies, South East Asian Studies, and related arts and humanities subjects. Other specialist libraries in Siem Reap include that of the cole Franaise dextrme-orient (EFEO) and the Angkor International Documentation Centre, which is administered by the Siem Reap branch of the Autorit pour la Protection du Site et l'Amnagement de la Rgion d'Angkor/Siem Reap (APSARA).
Some specialist libraries are run by NGOs. The Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) has a good research library with a focus on planning, economics and development. The Co-operation Committee for Cambodia (CCC), the co-ordinating body for NGOs working in Cambodia, also maintains a library for the development sector and researchers with a special emphasis on aid and development issues.
Various electronic document management systems are also being established, some of them open-access ones on which anyone may post documents. Examples include the http://www.foodsecurity.gov.kh website, the community information web portal http://www.cambodiacic.org and the Reproductive and Child Health Alliance website at http://rc.racha.org.kh.

Fonds pour l'dition des manuscrits du Cambodge (FEMC)
The Fonds pour l'dition des manuscrits du Cambodge (FEMC) team of the cole Franaise d'extrme-orient (EFEO), Phnom Penh, is active in restoring, microfilming, cataloguing and publishing ancient Cambodian sastra or palm leaf manuscripts.
Tragically 83 per cent of Cambodia's wats lost their libraries during the Khmer Rouge period, representing the destruction of between 95 and 98 per cent of the traditional literary heritage of Cambodia which had existed before 1970. Measures to protect what was left were thus urgently required. After a period of recruitment and training of specialised staff in the techniques of manuscript conservation, the FEMC team travelled around the country restoring, inventorying and copying the texts of manuscripts, whether on palm leaf or on paper. Since 1991 the FEMC team has worked in more than 750 pagodas (around a quarter of the total in Cambodia), restoring and inventorying more than 6,500 bundles of manuscripts. A master inventory and catalogue of Cambodian manuscripts has been developed at EFEO's headquarters in Phnom Penh. The special collection of 710 sastra at the National Library was restored, catalogued, microfilmed and rehoused with EFEO's assistance, and in recent years EFEO has also organised and set up several wat libraries, notably the Library of Preah Vanarat Ken at Wat Saravan in Phnom Penh and the Library of Wat Phum Thmei in Kompong Cham. The Buddhist Institute Library and the National Museum Library also hold important palm leaf manuscript collections.

Current issues
A current obstacle to the establishment of document management systems and databases with Khmer entries is that at the time of going to press the application of the new Khmer Unicode font remains limited, making it difficult for the Khmer font to be read electronically as intended.
The Hun Sen Library (RUPP) is currently implementing an international standard library automation system that includes automated circulation and an electronic catalogue that will also be accessible and searchable via the Internet. Its next challenge will be to automate the Khmer language collection, including the development of standard bibliographic descriptions, subject headings and name authorities in Khmer.
Public sector libraries are under-funded in terms of staff costs. After lengthy training periods paid for by aid donors, staff often depart for better-paying jobs in the NGO or private sector. This issue will only be overcome when there are long-term sustainability plans for the library sector and improvements in civil servant salaries. Other challenges for the future include finding innovative ways to assist practising librarians to gain internationally-recognised professional qualifications.
One of the pitfalls of donor aid to libraries is that gifts in kind are not always appropriate. Library advisors tell of receiving irrelevant, out-of-date materials, among them such items as 20-year old directories and encyclopaedias with missing volumes. Some Cambodian libraries have developed strong acquisitions policies and the application of such policies needs to become widespread.
Outside Phnom Penh library development has been slow, and apart from Siem Reap few provincial towns have libraries. This situation began to change in early 2003, when the Asia Foundation established 22 new Community Information Centres in provincial towns and cities. Each centre, hosted by a local NGO, has a small library in Khmer and provides free Internet access to all users. The programme is supported by a Khmer-language web portal http://www.cambodiacic.org, which provides information from a wide variety of sources.
Libraries and librarians are strong supporters of the need to develop a stronger publishing sector in Cambodia, and they have been in the forefront of the recent move to establish a local organisation to carry forward this work. The Federation for the Development of the Book Sector aims to improve publishing standards, encourage reading and undertake campaigns and programmes to develop more Khmer-language publishing for all Cambodians. The future for the development of libraries throughout Cambodia is full of new challenges.

Reference: Cambodia Cultural Profile

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