This Bill has been drawn up by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture and submitted for discussion in Hluttaw. It includes the formation of a National Library Supervisory Body and sets out approaches to the collection of items of arts and literature.
Beginnings of a National Library
The National Library was originally established with the collection of the Bernard Free Library. The Bernard Free Library was opened to the public for the free use on 21st February 1883, by Sir Charles Edward Bernard, a British Commissioner for Lower Myanmar; and Sir John Jardin, Chairman of Education Syndicate for Lower Myanmar. During the Second World War, many facilities and books kept in the Library were destroyed.
In 1952, following Independence, the name of the Library was changed to the ‘State Library’ under the Ministry of Union Culture, later in 1964 to the ‘National Library’. From 2010 there have been two libraries comprising the National Library: National Library (Yangon) and National Library (Naypyidaw). Currently, the National Library is under the management of the Department of Historical Research and National Library in the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture.
The National Library is responsible for:
- collecting and maintaining collections of art and literature;
- providing inter-library loans;
- publishing the Myanmar National Bibliography and the indexes of Myanmar periodicals;
- developing libraries through international networks;
- sharing knowledge about libraries among the public, and;
- setting a standard for library management. Additionally, from 2013, the National Library (Naypyidaw) is carrying out a digitisation of rare and old materials.
The National Library is also playing a role heading up the Myanmar Library Association, which is composed of many domestic libraries. It is also a member in the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL), and the Conference on Directors of National Libraries in Asia and Oceania (CDNLAO), where the progress of Myanmar libraries is regularly reported to the annual meeting.
With regard to library related laws, Myanmar has only the Library, Museum and Exhibition Monitoring Law 1964 on the statute book so far. This law says that to establish libraries and museums or to hold exhibitions registration/permission must be acquired. Only then can the library and museum be established, or an exhibition be opened/held. However, the Registration Committee can revoke the registration and permission if they oppose government policy or harm the state’s interest.
The 1964 Law defines a library as any body holding collections and open for the public, which includes the National Library. Therefore, at the moment, there is no separate law for the management of National Library, and if approved, the National Library Bill will become the first law.