Global Movement Empowers Libraries as Engines of Community Development
San Francisco, April 1, 2013 — The Asia Foundation has joined Beyond Access, an international coalition of organizations that seeks to activate an underutilized force in development efforts: public libraries. There are 230,000 public libraries worldwide, 73% of which are in the developing world. As established public institutions, libraries have the reach, legitimacy, and staying power that other institutions don’t. Beyond Access believes that empowering libraries with the equipment and training to meet their communities’ information needs can have a lasting and profound effect. Among its key contributions, The Asia Foundation will help to grow the Beyond Access membership base; identify exemplary libraries to showcase at Beyond Access’s Asia conference in Bali, Indonesia in October 2013; and recommend library delegates for the Mekong ICT Camp, an independently run workshop in Thailand, to train librarians on how technology can be utilized to better serve their communities.
Beyond Access is an initiative of IREX, EIFL, IFLA, Makaia, Facilitating Change, Development Gateway, The Asia Foundation, TASCHA, the Riecken Foundation, and READ Global, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It supports capacity-building efforts and partnerships between libraries, local community organizations, and governments to meet development goals.
“Beyond Access is an incredibly powerful concept for libraries in Asia. By drawing attention to libraries that are already powering development in their communities, strengthening them further with a bit of technical assistance, and helping them gain a seat at the table in donor and development discussions, the initiative is helping nations recognize libraries as ideal partners for achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals,” says Melody Zavala, director of The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program.
The Asia Foundation recently participated in a Beyond Access needs assessment of Burma/Myanmar’s public libraries, which included site visits to a wide variety of libraries, from a village reading room to the National Library, and meetings with government officials.
“The Asia Foundation brings a deep understanding of the Asian development landscape, as well as relationships with libraries throughout the region through its Books for Asia program. They’re an ideal partner in Asia for achieving Beyond Access’ goals,” says Ari Katz, deputy director for technology and civil society at IREX, who manages the Beyond Access program.
The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation. In addition, our Books for Asia and professional exchange programs are among the ways we encourage Asia’s continued development as a peaceful, just, and thriving region of the world.
Headquartered in San Francisco, The Asia Foundation works through a network of offices in 17 Asian countries and in Washington, DC. Working with public and private partners, the Foundation receives funding from a diverse group of bilateral and multilateral development agencies, foundations, corporations, and individuals. In 2012, we provided nearly $100 million in direct program support and distributed textbooks and other educational materials valued at over $30 million.