Everyone is aware of the devastating disaster caused by the recent earthquake in Haiti. Libraries and archives are among the institutions that have been destroyed or badly damaged, and the historical record of this fascinating country is in peril.
Haiti became the first independent nation in the Western hemisphere and the first black-led nation in the world, after a slave rebellion in 1804 threw off French rule. The island’s historical archives contain the primary record of the Haitian experience.
Currently there is an urgent need for donations of money to rebuild libraries and preserve the historic documents in Haiti’s archives. The American Library Association is coordinating efforts for relief and rebuilding with the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield (USCBS), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Donations to assist Haiti’s libraries and archives can be made at www.ala.org/haiti Up-dates on the condition of libraries in Haiti are also posted at this site.
While many people have offered to donate books for Haitian libraries, Haiti is not able to receive book donations at this time. The library structures must be replaced or repaired, and existing historical collections must be salvaged, before resources can be devoted to restocking library collections. However, when donations of books and other materials are appropriate, ALA will coordinate those efforts, as well.
The library community has always been very generous in supporting efforts to rebuild after other natural disasters. I am confident that we will step up to help Haitian libraries recover from this disaster and preserve its' history.