About the ACKU Digital Collection
ACKU’s holdings include non-tradition monographs, serials, newspaper titles, and a large number of reference resources. This digital collection is the most extensive in the region covering a time of war and social upheaval in the country, with most of the documents in English, Dari and Pashto languages. The collection also includes historical books, magazines, and newspapers about the socio-political history of the Middle East and international relations between Afghanistan and its neighboring countries. Currently, there are over 3,000 titles (about 400,000 pages) available online. Some notable digital titles include Sulnamah (Da Afghanistan Kalanay), Some notable digital titles in this site include Sulnamah (Da Afghanistan Kalanay), Aryana Afghanistan Republic, Afghanistan Forum, Afghanistan Report, Al-Jihad, Afghanistan Mirror, Afghan Jehad, and Afghanistan News Clippings. Other historical full-text titles such as Anis and Islah newspapers will soon be made available online from the University of Arizona Libraries via the site.
This digital project was initially funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Primarily objectives included: 1) training of ACKU staff in standardized cataloging, metadata creation, and digitization processing; 2) identification and selection of the appropriate materials as part of this digitization project; 3) scanning, digitizing, and preserving items from ACKU physical collection; 4) facilitating digital access and delivery; and 5) building a preservation infrastructure at ACKU that can serve as a resource for other higher education institutions in Afghanistan.
The use of this online digital collection since its initial availability in 2011 continues to increase worldwide according to all web statistics. Recent usage information of the site indicates page views (200%), unique visitors (78%), pages/visit (92%), visits (60%) and other statistics such as country specific and regional users. Based on the recent statistics, most users of this collection come from Afghanistan, United States, Western European countries, and Afghanistan’s neighboring countries.
Searching the Digital Collection
The Search features are still in a pilot phase; The University of Arizona Libraries in cooperation with Center for Research Libraries is currently working to improve searching capabilities and extending the metadata schema for this site. Items can be searched by typing the appropriate title, author, editor, or keyword or by simply using the Brows collection. The Brows Collection also let you know what is currently available online.
Click here for more information
Most works presented on this website are, unless otherwise indicated, in the public domain. The non-public domain images and text available on this website can only be reproduced for educational and research purposes.
This unique digital collection has been undertaken with the generous support of:
• The National Endowment for the Humanities
• The University of Arizona Libraries.
The Louis and Nancy Hatch Dupree Foundation.
After fulfilling and completing the NEH grant outcomes, both ACKU and the University of Arizona Libraries continue using their own resources for digitizing and providing open access to this important collection.
Project Director: Atifa Rawan, Librarian, University of Arizona Libraries
Phone: (520) 621-4867
Technical Director: Yan Han, Associate Librarian, University of Arizona Libraries
Phone: (520) 307-2823
The Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University (2011)
An approach toward sustained development
Nancy Hatch Dupree
The Current Environment
The variety of opinions being aired today by leaders searching for peace in Afghanistan does not inspire much confidence. Some coalition partners are already heading for exits. Others insist continued aggressive counter-insurgency operations are vital. The government says the intensity of the military campaigns must be lessened for they aggravate Afghans and exacerbate the insurgency. The opposition says the government ignores realities. Reconciliation negotiations stumble along mired in controversy. Meanwhile, the resilient insurgency widens its strikes against civilians, military targets, and government officials, as well as those who participate in development projects and those who simply dare speak out for change. The trust deficit is high and mounting.
The strategists emphasize improvements in security and political reform. Both are necessary. What is missing is a reliable assessment of the dynamics within civilian populations. True, an expanded role for foreign civilian advisors is included in the transition strategies. Well and good, but it is a mistake to sideline the skilled, creatively motivated young men and women in both private and government sectors from exercising decision-making authority on policy, programming and resources. This robs them of a sense of ownership, dampens their motivation and leads to corruption. To strengthen the leadership capacity of these potential leaders and move them to the centre of involvement where they belong, access to reliable research materials for long-term planning, in addition to studies on how to conduct research, are needed.
But that is not enough. Strategies that focus their measurements of "progress" on government rather than people will fail. In the provinces where the present environment of conflict imposes added constraints in many areas, different sets of dynamics function. Here where the revamped strategies rightly focus on health, education, agriculture, good governance and legal reforms, together with their affiliated components, aid workers continue to work successfully despite grievous intimidation. Their many stunning accomplishments give ample proof that rural populations are receptive to change when new ideas are delivered patiently in a manner that builds trust. These activities can be enhanced by learning materials directly focused on particular programming.
Spontaneous individual and community reconstruction activities also underline the fact that Afghanistan's most potent resource is the self-reliance and energy of its people. They have shown incredible resilience over years of turmoil and have themselves devised all manner of coping mechanisms in the midst of conflict. By their own efforts they have accomplished much. It is time to tap these previously marginalized resources as their potential is now greater than ever. For many, the refugee experience broadened horizons and expectations through exposure to wider sources of knowledge. To meet their new expectations while capitalizing on their pride of self-reliance, a broader distribution of comprehensive learning materials containing data on appropriate technologies is necessary. In addition, advances in technology make the sharing of information so much easier. The speed at which new communications technologies have taken hold in Afghanistan is breathtaking. Coordinate it with printed materials and you have a powerful learning tool. Individuals may then be able to strengthen and quicken their own efforts, enhance their livelihoods and move forward with confidence.
In short, given access to information through the many means now available, Afghans can, and will, by themselves, reach many eagerly sought development goals without needing to become dependent on outsiders.
This is a critical point for the hallowed Afghan ideal of self-reliance is being undermined by a creeping culture of dependency. While it is true the refugee experience broadened horizons, it is also evident that the experience led many of the new generation to expect massive inputs of free handouts. As a result, one hears too often today of communities neglecting tasks that traditionally brought them together for the common good. The annual repair of weirs that divert water from rivers into irrigation channels provides one example. Building these weirs was the height of the summer's excitements greatly enjoyed by each and every man, woman and child living up and down the length of the channels. Community cohesiveness was thus strengthened. It is distressing to hear that so many nowadays wait for outsiders to do such work for them.
One solution that could be explored is the creation of an information resource infrastructure along the lines of a National Information System (NIS) to serve professionals and technocrats below the political leadership, as well as administrators and new literates in towns and villages. Such a system would store data, and make it accessible by distributing it beyond the center. There never was very much meaningful interchange between the centre and its peripheries, especially in the application of national policies. Collections of data generated by the government, the United Nations, bilateral actors and non-profit organizations are rich, but largely inaccessible to administrators even at the center, not to mention engaged citizens in the provinces. That sharing information consonant with overall strategic goals can result in the reinforcement and stimulation of development and prevent disruptions from political machinations is a principle worthy of investigation.
Establishing a National Information System would be a major long-term endeavor needing much creative thinking, time, planning, coordination, cooperation and resources - and an environment of security and peace. That is for the future. For the present, the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University provides one approach in the direction of this larger ideal.
ACKU: The Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University
Prelude in Peshawar
The leftist coup of 27 April 1978 and the Soviet invasion that followed in December initiated a massive displacement of some 6.2 million Afghans to Pakistan and Iran. In Pakistan the largest concentrations settled in camps around Peshawar, capital of the North-West Frontier Province (recently renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). At first there was no official apparatus to deal with the surging inflows, since the Pakistan government did not ask for outside assistance until April 1979. But some 55 International NGOs from various nations set up offices in Peshawar where they assiduously guarded their own interests until 1988 when the UN set up Operation Salam to coordinate humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan. At this point, mindful that the UN juggernaut could well impinge on their independence, the NGOs bonded together in August to form ACBAR, the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief.
Sectoral committees of all descriptions met daily to devise frameworks for coordinated approaches, set operational standards and minimize duplication. The Library Committee at first decided they must purchase every book ever printed about Afghanistan, but later agreed with Louis Dupree's assessment that the cost of buying and storing such a huge amount of material was not feasible, especially, as Dupree pointed out, it was unrealistic to assume that even 1% of these expensive works would ever be consulted. Better, he said, to concentrate on the major objective which was to facilitate their work by sharing the information they themselves were generating.
It was a unique opportunity, he said, for never before had there been access to so many formerly marginalized communities. Aid workers were now learning from experience what types of assistance would be accepted, what was difficult to apply and why, and which methods worked and which did not. Their reports would form an invaluable fund of knowledge for future reconstruction planning.
ARIC (the ACBAR Resource and Information Centre) was established in Peshawar in May 1989 as a semi-autonomous body to function as a depository and clearing-house of documentation in support of humanitarian aid workers assisting Afghan refugees and populations across the border outside occupied areas. ARIC was far more than a library. Its collections included substantial background reference materials, but its primary focus were the agency reports, surveys, technical analyses, consultancy reports, seminar proceedings, newspapers and magazines produced by many sources, including NGOs, UN agencies, bilateral organizations and governments.
The early days of the outreach component
ARIC's Dari and Pashto section soon grew from nothing into a sizeable collection. In 1996 ARIC launched ABLE, the ARIC Box Library Extension, for the purpose of placing books in the hands of new literates and others who could benefit from them. Three categories of ABLE libraries emerged: community libraries, high school libraries and provincial council libraries.
The purpose of the ABLE libraries is to strengthen individual growth and community self-sufficiency by broadening horizons and supplementing existing services. Each library originally contains about 200 easy-to-read books for new literates, and is periodically updated with new books. Subjects range from administration to agriculture, mother-child health to animal health care, Islam, history, cultural heritage, literature, folktales, children's games, home management and a variety of vocational subjects. Books, such as dictionaries and computer manuals, are purchased from the bazaar, but as the number of suitable works for new-literates is limited, the ABLE Production Unit was formed to meet user requests. Listening to suggestions from users so the books reflect the learning interests of communities is a cardinal principle. The Editorial Board identifies experts willing to write in simple Dari and Pashto, in no more than 100 pages without compromising the subject. Today, ABLE book titles number 121. The goal is not only to provide instructional information, but to present attractive volumes that will begin to build a reading habit by encouraging the notion that reading can be fun.
Cooperation and coordination within the varied facets of the project are the keys to its success. All ABLE books receive an NOC (certificate of approval) from the Ministry of Education. None have been rejected, even under the Taliban. Whenever appropriate, ABLE books reinforce messages already being promoted by ministries and agencies. For the high school libraries, surveys are conducted to make sure facilities, management, and commitment are adequate. NGO partners deliver the community libraries, but the residents themselves decide where to locate them and who will act as custodian. These locations include community centers, schools, clinics, mosques and bazaar shops.
Since the ABLE libraries are lending libraries, many an eyebrow was lifted at first, but it soon became evident that respect for books is very strong outside sophisticated urban areas. Few books were damaged; few went missing. At first many also scoffed at the idea of distributing books among largely non-literate communities. The enthusiasm with which the libraries were received put an end to that argument. Afghans have enjoyed the tradition of public poetry readings, mushaira, for centuries. This activity has now been extended to reading ABLE books to family and friends. Besides, if the literacy rate is 28% as is now claimed, 28% of a population estimated to be 24.9 million in 2010 is a worthy target to begin with.
ARIC becomes ACKU
Mujahideen leadership took over from the leftist regime ruling Kabul in April 1992, but law and order rapidly broke down setting the stage for the rise of the Taliban who took Kabul in September 1996. ABLE flourished under the Taliban and thereafter: by 1998 there were 30 community and high school libraries in 19 provinces; in 2010 there are 176 ABLE libraries in 28 provinces with 137,750 books in circulation. This number can be tripled or even quadrupled as numbers of other agencies have begun to follow the ABLE model.
The wrath of the United States dispatched the Taliban (October 2001) following the attacks of 9/11/2001. Many agencies quickly relocated to Kabul, but ARIC stayed in Peshawar because it had no backups then for its vulnerable material. When, however, a President was elected (October 2004), and a parliament seated it was clearly time for ARIC to make the move. In 2005 ARIC registered with the Ministry of Economy under the name of the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University (ACKU), and, on the invitation of the University Senate, temporarily relocated to the Central Library of Kabul University. In 2006, 36,000 documents were transferred from Peshawar to Kabul by Afghan public transport, with no damage and no losses. ACKU has a Reading Room with computers where users may access the database and order books from the stacks for use in the Reading Room. ACKU is not a lending library, as pilferage plagues KU as it does most universities the world over. Photocopy services are available, however.
The collections have grown in the five years since coming to Kabul from 36,000 to 58,000 Afghanistan-specific volumes (22,000 catalogued titles) in a variety of western (60%) and Afghan languages (40%). About 70% of these documents fall into the grey areas of reports by government ministries, refugee groups, NGOs, mujahideen and Taliban, plus social, political and military narratives and analyses. Reference Books (ca. 30%), include works of archaeologists, anthropologists and historians, accounts by travelers that go back to the passage of Alexander the Great; government publications (ca.20%); NGO publications (ca. 18%); mujahideen and Taliban publications (ca.16%); and United Nations agencies reports (ca. 11%).
All sectors are represented. The Archives section contains documents on the early years of the Hilmand Valley Project; a collection of folk music collected in 1969-70, 1975 (10 hours; 11 CDs) and 684 computer optical discs containing research notes on folklore from Herat, dating from 1975-2000. There is a 500-strong collection of video and audio material, including five ethnographic documentaries filmed in 1972 in a village in northern Afghanistan, a growing collection of slides from the 1920s to the present, various videos produced by NGOs of their work among the refugees in Pakistan and several major news events, as well as cassettes of current popular music. The Map section contains about 500 maps; the 1,000 poster sheets fall into categories such as health, education, the war of 1979-1989, presidential elections, parliamentary elections, provincial council elections; and special events such as the official reburial of President Daoud in March 2009.
Collecting these materials is no simple matter. Sharing information is not a priority as the concept that information shapes the quality of production and services, and, most significantly, shapes attitudes toward positive lifestyles is not appreciated. A full time Acquisitions Officer must make the rounds daily. The ACKU motto, however, is sharing information for nation-building. Three cataloguers catalogue documents according to the standard Library of Congress system and these are entered into the database where access is world wide. Beyond this, four scanners have so far scanned 400,000 pages. The purpose of this activity is to share the collections eventually with the growing number of libraries and universities in the provinces, when the requisite technology, such as electricity and computers, are available.
There is of course more to sharing information than books and CDs. ACKU envisions a range of events including exhibitions, lectures, film shows and video dialoging - there is really no limit to an imaginative mind. To realize these goals a spacious ACKU facility is rising on the KU campus on grounds graciously allotted by the university. with funds generously provided by the Afghan Government. This new phase should begin in the spring of 2011.
Bit by bit the infrastructure is being laid. But there is a long, long way to go along a road with many hurdles other than logistics. The most pressing challenges before us will involve attitudes that are often firmly entrenched, as well as elusive. No one could, nor should, disagree that sustainability is the key to development. Even the international rhetoric is beginning to admit short-term, start-and-stop Quick Fixes are bound to fail. Rhetoric, however, is ephemeral. Go a step further and say that access to knowledge is the key to sustainability and minds cloud over.
Yet take a look at today's reconstruction priorities and practices. Democracy. How can citizens participate in any sort of democratic system if they are not introduced to the concept of the reciprocal nature of the system? How can Provincial Councils and District Councils play their role without a copy of the Constitution, not to mention other legal documents? Rights of Women. How can urban and rural women apply UN conventions on the rights of women and children when they have no way of knowing the substance of these documents? Literacy. How will primary school graduates and graduates of adult literacy classes retain their skills if they are given nothing to read? Health. How are men and women, rural and urban, to develop good health habits after listening to a sporadic lecture or two? Agriculture. How can farmers apply new technologies or sustain the health of their flocks after extension workers leave? One need not belabour the point further.
Future leaders and every citizen, youth particularly, need reliable information to cope with the multifaceted challenges facing them so as to consider alternative solutions to enhance family livelihoods beyond survival. So the development of a literate society capable of contributing to the growth of the nation should be encouraged. The overarching point I would emphasize here is that every opportunity should be taken to capitalize on the pride of self-sufficiency, the respect for learning, the desire to maximize opportunities, and the receptivity to new ideas that are intrinsic personality characteristics of most Afghans. Citizens are now being asked to be part of state-building; if they are expected to become engaged they need the knowledge to do so.
Services providing sufficient access to information are now limited. Schools need complimentary reading materials to supplement the curricula. Scholars need to be persuaded to share their knowledge outside ponderous scholarly tomes. Intellectual cooperation within community action and civil society groups need to be fostered. And finally the publication and dissemination of attractive easy-to-read learning materials needs to be supported. Dissemination is the key word here. These are simple first steps which will yield rich rewards if creatively followed.
Orional Source: website Jura Gentium of Centre for the Philosophy of International Law and Global Politics, Department of Theory and History of Law, University of Florence, Italy http://www.juragentium.unifi.it/topics/islam/en/dupree.htm
THE ACKU STORY (October 2009)
Prepared for the Royal Norwegian Embassy for distribution to Norwegian media
THE AFGHANISTAN CENTRE AT KABUL UNIVERSITY
There is a pressing need in Afghanistan to spread information beyond school room doors for the purpose of arming citizens with knowledge they can use for the enhancement and enrichment of the quality of their lives - The Afghan people have shown a remarkable resilience through war and exile; their coping skills are many and ingenious.Given access to knowledge they can, and will, achieve, through their own efforts, a good deal of the elusive reconstruction so fervently desired, without becoming dependent.
Experience has show time and again that the responses of those most in need can be brilliant.This is particularly evident in the health sector where high child and maternal mortality rates have been dramatically lowered by making basic information on good health practices available.
ACKU believes in the country’s potential.Sharing information for nation building is a primary goal.It functions on two levels.
Kabul University has over 10,000 students, 2,831 of whom are girls. Their desire to learn is very keen. At the Central Library over a thousand students and researchers visit the ACKU Reading Room each month, although the space is very limited.
Thirst of knowledge - 6 on a computer!
ACKU’s IT staff introduces students to the complexities and richness of Internet research.
Computers are provided for study and access to the ACKU Database of over 48,000 catalogued documents on Afghanistan; 40% of the collection is in Dari, Pashto and other afghan languages; 60% is in Western languages, primarily in English.
For further accessibility these documents are being digitized so that they may be shared through CDs. DVD, and other IT marvels with universities and libraries throughout the Afghan provinces. About 10000 pages are digitized every month.
ACKU is running out of space. The collection has grown to 48,000 volumes since 1989.
Thanks to the generosity of the Afghan government, a spacious facility is now under construction on the campus where more wide-ranging information sharing activities, such as lectures, exhibitions, and video dialogues between Afghan students and students abroad will soon be possible
Construction in Progress
Most Afghans live in rural areas. ABLE, the ACKU Box Libraries Extension, sends libraries to provincial communities, high schools and Provincial Councils. Some 205,000 books in Dari and Pashto are in circulation; thousands more have been distributed by others following the ABLE model.Many of these books are ABLE’s own publications especially designed for new literates.
ABLE – the outreach component
ABLE Box Library
ABLE has published 205 titles on subjects as health, education, history, animal husbandry, arts, agriculture, economy and the environment. One thousand of each title is printed.
In 2010, there were 20 new libraries established in Kabul City and surrounding Districts of Kabul province. Each library contains of 505 different titles such as science, law, computer … etc., both ABLE’s and books purchased from the book publishers’ market in Kabul.
Rights of Citizens
Titles are selected to ensure sustainability. The aim is to supplement knowledge beyond the school room and beyond short-term quick-fix development projects. Primary education and adult education programs, for instance, are too often a waste of time and a waste of effort because graduates are given nothing to read. Their newly learned skills will soon be forgotten as a result.
ABLE has 45,000 registered borrowers, although the actual number of users are probably at least up to five times more because the oral tradition is strong in Afghanistan. Many enjoy being read to when they can not read themselves.
ABLE in the Provinces
ABLE in High School
ABLE in the Mosque
These are small steps, but one cannot, and should not, presume to remodel a society which has lived in a certain manner for centuries overnight. Nor should the values that sustain the Afghan society be eroded. But the people of Afghanistan do have the right to access knowledge that will strengthen these values and enrich their lives.