An analytical study of some NGOs'/NPOs' contributions by promoting library activities at disadvantageous areas in Vietnam to create potential and lifelong learners.

Author:Hossain, Zakir

Introduction: Contents and Study Questions

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are high-profile actors in the field of international development, both as providers of services to vulnerable individuals and communities and as campaigning policy advocates. According to Wikipedia, the acronym "NGO" was first used in 1945 when the UN was created. "NGO is an independent voluntary association of people acting together on a continuous basis for some common purpose other than achieving government office, making money or illegal activities" (Peter Willetts, 2012). Akira Iriye (2004) defines NGO as "a voluntary non-state, non-profit, non-religious, and non-military association." Streeten (1997) said, "NGOs are professionally-staffed organizations aiming at contributing to the reduction of human suffering and to the development of poor countries". NGO is also known as a civil society organization. On the other hand a non-profit organization (NPO) uses its extra funds for the purpose of the organization, rather than dividing it between the shareholders and the owners of the organization. "A nonprofit organization is an organization that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals rather than distributing them as profit or dividends"- Wikipedia. Examples of NPOs are public arts organizations, trade unions and charitable organizations. NGOs and NPOs should become the source of inspiration for every government to respect and implement all vital human needs. The various governments of the world have at least one thing in common i.e. they all know that without people involvement in the solution of problems, the nation may deteriorate to the point of disintegration and self-annihilation. In fact, in countries where we have plenty of volunteers working through various NGOs and NPOs, we tend to discover less problems and less human suffering. Very fortunately, from the very outset, the United Nations has realized this tangible evidence and thus it proceeded to establish good rapport with several NGOs and NPOs. Over the past 60 years, since the United Nations came into existence, NGOs and NPOs have played a big role in the implementation of the peaceful objectives of this world body of nations. They do this in various ways such as by funding projects, engaging in service provision and capacity building, contributing to awareness, and promoting the self-organization of various groups (Baccaro, 2001) that obviously empowered the society towards its development. Empowerment is the ability of individuals to gain control socially, politically, economically and psychologically through (1) access to information, knowledge and skills; (2) decision making; and (3) individual self-efficacy, community participation, and perceived control (Zimmerman and Rappaport 1988).

Consonantly libraries have been identified as one of the key elements for open access to information, which is crucial to democratic information society development. The unique function of libraries is to acquire, organize, offer for use and preserve publicly available material irrespective of the form in which it is packaged (print, cassette, CD-ROM, network form) in such a way that, when it is needed, it can be found and put to use. No other institutions carry out this long-term, systematic work as libraries do. "A library is an instrument of self education, a means of knowledge and factual information, a centre of intellectual recreations and a beacon of enlightenment that provides accumulated preserved knowledge of civilization which consequently enriches one's mental vision and dignifies his habit, behavior, character, taste, attitude, conduct and outlook on life (Islam 2004)." The online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia describe the library as a place in which literary and artistic materials, such as books, periodicals newspapers, pamphlets, prints, records, and tapes, are kept for reading, reference, or lending. In a digital sense, a library may be more than a building that houses a collection of books and other materials as the Internet has opened up an avalanche of online and electronic resources for accessing documents on various fields of interest.

As the missions of libraries and NGOs/NPOs increasingly intersect each other numerous libraries are built and patronized by NGOs or NPOs throughout the world. Nowadays these kinds of contributions have overcome the geographical barriers as NGOs and NPOs are growing exponentially and becoming INGOs/ INPOs. NGOs and NPOs act as windows on applied knowledge and provide links to sources of information; therefore these organizations are collaborating to provide essential services that revolve around the creation, dissemination, and storage of information. There is no doubt about the fact that development is a product of education and education is a process through which people are formally and informally trained to acquire knowledge and skills. 'Education' and 'Library' are two inseparable indivisible concepts, both being fundamentally and synchronically related to and co-existent with each other. One cannot be separated from the other. None of them is an end in itself; rather both of them together are a means to an ultimate end. One dies as soon as the other perishes. One survives as long as the other exists. This inter-relation, co-existence, if you like, this dependence of one upon the other has been coming down from the birth of human civilization to the posterity through a process of evolution in accord with varied needs, changes, and circumstances of various stages of human life (Adio & Olasina, 2010). A school, a club, and enterprise of a society can never alone impart education; each of them is dependent upon a library - a centre of wholesome education, and the quencher of thirst for concrete, fathomless, ultimate knowledge! Leaders in almost all of the developing countries are now sharing the same faith in what libraries can potentially contribute to the development of their countries. In this regard, this is worth mentioning: "Libraries are therefore needed for farmers, industrialists and scientists, planners, government officials and para-statal organizations, personnel and all people, i.e. rural and urban, who are engaged in the economic development of a country" (Tawete 1988). In consonance with Tawete, Makotsi (2005) said, "Improving access to relevant information and promoting a reading culture are prerequisite for strengthening literacy skills, widening education and learning opportunities, and helping people to address the causes of poverty". So the roles of libraries and librarians in the concept of poverty alleviation and capacity building of the people can never be overemphasized if it serves in innovative way by breaking the tradition (Ogunsola, 2011).

However, we may state categorically that the ultimate objective of NGOs and NPOs, regardless of their character, nature and eventual original purpose, is to promote educational and economical development toward the creation of a better and more stable global community whereas libraries provide access to reading materials through which school children and youths can gain and improve their skills. Ellen M. Coe stated, "... the library and its work is supplementary to the school, or that the school is preparatory and introductory to the library" (1892).

Library is a wonderful gathering place to pursue knowledge whether you are student, teacher, parent, labor, employed or unemployed regardless of creed, culture or color and librarians are the people who always welcome you to gain a flavor of the library i.e. knowledge creation, knowledge preservation and knowledge dissemination that make them special and it is like to be part of our community development since the Neo-Assyrian Empire period (2600 B.C). The national survey (1996) of Australia shows that extensive use of the school library was associated with a difference of as many as 27 points to students' literacy achievements when compared with non-use of the library. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General (UNESCO, 2003) said, "Literacy unlocks the door to learning throughout life, is essential to development and health, and opens the way for democratic participation and active citizenship." The Libraries create literacy among the people through library services which include: public enlightenment or rights in the society, understanding social values and expected conduct in public life; assisting to adjust to existing social, political, spiritual and economic activities of the society. Moreover library services improve knowledge and skills for positive productivity as a tool for national development.

Consequently, it is easy to realize that besides institutional education libraries have significant contributions among others in order to create literate and lifelong learners to be an active citizen. According to Rubin (2002), "Children with poor reading habits have a higher chance of anti-social behavior. Delinquency; school violence, bullying, hacking computers, and even examination malpractices have a correlation with poor reading habits. This does not mean that those with poor reading habits display such behavior; however, poor reading habits are associated with such behavioral patterns while good reading habit helps develop a steady and constructive mind."

NGOs/NPOs and Library Activities in Vietnam

The principle "people know, people discuss, people execute and people supervise" which has been repeatedly mentioned in documents and policies of the Vietnam's Communist Party (CP) reflects the wish of the Government to encourage every social organization and citizen to participate in formulating, implementing and monitoring policies. Private, nonprofit development organizations began to emerge in Vietnam following a 1993 decree on 'Science and Technology Associations'. The government at this time was decreasing the size of the bureaucracy and wanted to see what innovations could emerge...

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