When numbers speak volumes
The library in Bergen Resource Centre for International Development, owned by Chr. Michelsen Institute and the University of Bergen, is the largest specialized development research library in Norway. It boasts more than 70 000 volumes on Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, including topics like development aid, violence and peace-keeping, poverty reduction and human rights, and is still growing. 60 % of the volumes in the Resource Centre are not registered in any other BIBSYS library. Librarians with detailed knowledge and a strong commitment have ordered books from all over the world, and researchers at Chr. Michelsen Institute have brought home not only books and reports, but also grey literature to be found nowhere else in the world.
-The vast amount of grey literature is part of what makes the library at the Resource Centre so unique. The value of the items is tremendous. For example, this is probably the only place in the world where you find some of your reports on Afghanistan, says Carol Priestley. Priestley was founder Director of the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) and is now Director of the NGO Network for Information & Digital Access (NIDA). She has had a lifelong devotion to international development, especially including books and research libraries. She recently visited the Resource Centre to join the celebration of Kirsti Hagen Andersen, head of the Resource Centre and the former CMI library through four decades.
A true resource for development research
40 percent of the loans were to people outside Chr. Michelsen Institute and the University of Bergen. In comparison, other specialized libraries have a share of ca. 10 percent external loans on average. The sheer numbers speak volumes about the distinctiveness of the library at the Resource Centre.
-Our collection is an important asset to researchers in universities and university colleges, as well as to policymakers. Employees in aid agencies and research institutes are also eager borrowers. Students from a wide array of disciplines have also opened their eyes to the library here at the Resource Centre, says Andersen.
Widening the world of knowledge
After 42 years at CMI and the Resource Centre, Andersen is now ready to join the ranks of retirees, but she is not ready to let go of her dedication to the role of research libraries. Throughout her working career, she has been active in the European Association for Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI). As head of the library services, she has also played a crucial role in many of the institutional agreements between Chr. Michelsen Institute and research institutes in developing countries. Visits and training of librarians from libraries in the South used to be regular events. Librarians from Bangladesh, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Namibia, Botswana and Ethiopia have benefited from the institutional agreements throughout the history of the former CMI library, now the Resource Centre.
-The opportunities and capacity building provided by institutional agreements have been of immense importance, not only for our partners in the South, but also for CMI. Guest researchers from all over the world spend a lot of time in our library whenever they come to Bergen. It would be a good idea to offer guest researchers and students funding for stays here at the Resource Centre, says Andersen.
She also stresses the vital importance of library support in countries where research literature is at a minimum. The integration of the library in research agreements has enabled financial support for the purchase of books and periodicals in the libraries of partner institutions.
Priestley gives Andersen her undivided support, but urges the Resource Centre to make the collection available digitally. The marginalization of Africa, Asia and Latin America in the knowledge production is not so much a problem of distance, nor indeed of access to resources now, but rather a lack of active participation in creation and global exchange of information and knowledge.
-We must now see to it that the collections in libraries like the BRC are digitised, or else the tremendous opportunities that the digital world brings for global access, dissemination and utilisation will be lost, says Priestley.