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Egypt's National Library seeks to improve access to information

Following last year's uprising, Egypt's NLA seeks to improve the public's access to information - which had for years constituted a red line among national security officials

Ahram Online, Tuesday 13 Mar 2012
National Library egypt
National Library egypt (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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The National Library and Archives (NLA) recently announced plans to modernise the administration of the Egyptian National Library and improve access to information countrywide.

Firstly, the NLA aims to bring all of Egypt's libraries under the National Library's umbrella within a four-year period, along with standardising regulations governing all library operations.

The NLA also aims to work more closely with Egyptian cultural and heritage centres with the aim of encouraging library development and the archiving sciences. The NLA is also expected to issue a raft of new regulations aimed at improving the exchange of documents and manuscripts.

Egypt has long planned to issue a new documents law to replace the current law, which tightly restricts access to and the exchange of historical documents. Since 2003, the NLA has been trying to rework the law, to which it issued draft amendments in 2006. The changes, however, were never presented to parliament for ratification.

Following last year's revolution, the NLA again reviewed the law with the help of respected lawmakers and historians. These efforts were sharply criticised among official circles, however, since a new proposed law would oblige all state institutions – including the Egyptian Ministry of Defence – to deposit all official documents with the National Library for archiving.

In the 1950s, the defence ministry ceased the practice of depositing its official documents with the library. The NLA does not, for example, hold a single official paper related to Egypt's 1967 or 1973 wars with Israel.

The NLA's new strategy aims to set a national policy for providing information and facilitating its exchange, as well as for protecting copyrights and securing the public's right to access information.

The new plan also includes an ambitious redesign of the NLA's offices on the banks of Cairo’s Nile River.

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