May 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. As established public institutions, libraries have the reach, legitimacy, and staying power that other institutions don’t.
With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Beyond Access is an initiative of IREX, EIFL, IFLA, Makaia, Facilitating Change, Development Gateway, The Asia Foundation, TASCHA, the Riecken Foundation, and READ Global. Beyond Access supports capacity-building efforts and partnerships between libraries, local community organizations, and governments to meet development goals.
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 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.
“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’s goals,” says Ari Katz, deputy director for technology and civil society at IREX, who manages the Beyond Access program.