National library faces bleak future: British consultant
deplores state of neglect, urges changes
ChilNet extract from El Mercurio
11 June 1997
A British library
consultant concluding an inspection tour of the National Library
last week urged the government to place the institution's
revitalization higher on its priority list.
The primary objective of
consultant Maurice Line's visit was to draft a plan to serve as a
structural blueprint for future National Library directors on how
to run the institution.
"In this world dominated by
the market economy where everything has a price, national
libraries are in crisis or else they have already died," he
Line's prognosis for Chile's
National Library is no less dismal: its collection is in danger
of "either rotting or crumbling to dust."
After several weeks inspecting
the condition of the National Library, located in Santiago, Line
found that there is a vast corps of underpaid staff engaged
primarily in routine rather than creative work, and with no
expectations of improved conditions in the future.
"If Chile wants to have a
decent public service, the country will have to invest in it and
re-think the library concept," Line said.
The process of turning the
library system around, Line said, must begin with decent salaries
and staff training along with the introduction of automation and
Line describes the low salaries
earned by library personnel as "de-motivating" factors.
"I admire what these people are doing under such difficult
conditions. Many are insecure in their work as a result of the
lack of trust vested in them. If officials support them I am
certain they will grow," he said.
The consultant said another of
the institutions' weaknesses is that than no more than 60 percent
of books printed in Chile reach the library and many books are in
storage in deteriorating condition.
Line observed that high school
and university students are the most frequent users, when they
should be served by their own school libraries. The job of a
national library, rather, should be to gather together all the
country's knowledge, catalogue it, preserve these materials for
posterity and make them available to scholars and researchers.
He said he hopes that the changes
he proposed are implemented in the next couple years, a goal he
said is feasible if the library receives the support it needs. *