Books and literature (♥)
A legislative decree (2001) regulates the freedom of the press and libraries. To establish a printing office or a library, a request must be submitted to the Ministry of Information. The owner of the printing house needs to comply with any official request to provide information about published titles and dates of publication. A copy of every publication must he sent to the authorities on the day it is published. A national campaign to promote the book trade was launched by the Fund for Integrated Rural Development of Syria, “FIRDOS”, in cooperation with the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs (SCFA), see more on the commission at Wikileaks and Facebook. An undated interview with the Director-General of the Syrian General Book Authority appeared on the website of The Poetry News Agency, to read see…
The Children’s Literature Regional Programme of Euro-Med, adopted by the Anna Lindh Foundation, was launched in cooperation with a number of civil society organizations to develop children’s literature. The programme supported 9 children’s libraries affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and 5 reading clubs were established. The programme included a competition for the best Syrian Children’s Book. Additional research was conducted about the image of children in Syrian books.
Several ministries and popular organizations joined forces to combat illiteracy. The illiteracy rate in Syria has dropped from 19% to 14.2% of the population (aged 15 and older), according to Central Bureau of Statistics figures (2007). These figures show that illiteracy is highest among females and in rural areas. The Ministry of Culture established a directorate for adult literacy and cultural development, which is the key organization, in addition to the Ministries of Education, of Social Affairs and Labour, and of Agriculture, and the State Planning Commission. Popular organizations include the General Union of Syrian Women and the Revolutionary Youth Union.
The Libraries do not fall under the authority of the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), the government agency that is responsible for the protection, promotion and excavation activities in all sites of national heritage in the country (for more on DGAM see Wikipedia and Facebook). However, some of the manuscript holdings do fall under DGAM’s control and the library of DGAM contains some 14,000 volumes (Meinhold, 2011).
The Al-Assad Library is the national library (1984, Damascus). The library’s first task is to collect all published books and newspapers, in addition to literature connected with heritage, such as manuscripts. They are conserved and stored in suitable depots. For more on the Al-Assad library see their website (Arabic), the Data Control Sheet (IFLA, World guide to library, archive and information science associations. De Gruyter, 2011), Development of the al Assad National Library (Jeffreys, UNESCO, Paris 1984) or Wikipedia.
According to Wikipedia Syria accommodates also the following libraries:
- National Library of Aleppo
- Bibliothèque About Rummaneh
- Damascus University
- Institut Français d’Etudes Arabes de Damas
- Umayyad Mosque
- University of Aleppo
- University of Damascus Library
- Al-Zahiriyah Library
The Umayyad Library (Awqaf Library) was destroyed in the shelling during February 2013 (see Arab News, 1 March 2013). Fortunately the manuscripts were saved before the attack was launched (personal communication).
It is unclear if any Syrian library institution or association is a member of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).
No information whatsoever could be found on archives in Syria. We do know that Syria is NOT a member of the International Council on Archives (ICA).
Central Bureau of Statistics (2007), Annual Statistical Abstract, No. 61. Damascus: Presidency of the Council of Ministers.
Jeffreys, A.E. (1984), Development of the al Assad National Library. Paris: UNESCO.
Meinhold, Alexandra (ed.) (2011), World Guide to Library, Archive, and Information Science Associations. IFLA Publications Series 142-143, 3rd Edition. Berlin/Munich: De Gruyter Saur
[♥] Much of the text above is from: Syria by Reem Al Khatib and Rana Yazaji published in ‘Cultural Policies in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia. An introduction’, Cultural Resource/European Cultural Foundation, Bookmanstudies, 2010, 191-193.