Libraries Without Borders
Mongolia’s library sector faces significant budget constraints due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. These financial pressures jeopardise critical library functions such as collection development, staff training, and infrastructure, with rural libraries particularly affected. In 2020 and 2021, institutions like the National Library of Mongolia and professional bodies were unable to provide in-person capacity-building training and activities to rural libraries due to lockdowns and budget cuts.
In early 2022, thanks to financial support from the Australian Embassy Mongolia through the Australian Global Alumni grant, a group of professionals, including an Australia Awards alumna librarian, visited the Central public libraries in Dundgobi and Bayan-Ulgii provinces. The team aimed to deliver capacity-building training, sharing Australian and global library best practices and services while enriching children’s collections with in-demand books. The response was remarkable, showcasing rural libraries’ thirst for knowledge and eagerness for change. The team identified a pressing need for support in collection development, technical expertise, and librarian skills in rural libraries.
The impact of these initial trips was significant, sparking other rural libraries across Mongolia to seek similar support. Mongolia’s vast expanse of 1,564,116 square kilometres and a population of 3.3 million, making it the world’s most sparsely populated country, presented formidable challenges.
To address this need, the Mongolian Library Association (MLA) proposed the “Libraries Without Borders” project to the Australian Embassy of Mongolia grant, which received approval in mid-2022. The project was inaugurated during celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Mongolia in September 2022.
Since its launch, the “Libraries Without Borders” project has made remarkable progress, covering approximately 18,000 kilometres, visiting 19 of 21 provinces and reaching five remote districts in Ulaanbaatar. The project encompasses technical support, capacity-building training for librarians, enriching collections in central public libraries of all 21 provinces, and conducting in-depth research at rural libraries. Moreover, the project is creating a platform connecting all provincial central public libraries to exchange information and translating a library management program into Mongolian to assist librarians in better using the Integrated Library System.
A significant achievement has been the capacity-building training sessions, attended by over 700 librarians, some travelling hundreds of kilometres. Training focuses on sharing knowledge and experience from global public libraries, emphasising user-centred programs. Rural librarians are eager to acquire new skills and broaden their services despite challenges, including librarian shortages and resource limitations.
The project’s hallmark is its ability to engage stakeholders across sectors and regions. This engagement spans library organisations, diplomatic bodies, local governor’s offices, media, volunteers, publishing houses, authors, and Australian alumni. Their efforts have garnered positive feedback, underscoring the project’s importance.
As the project nears its conclusion, with a final trip scheduled for early November, it profoundly impacts Mongolia’s rural library landscape. The “Libraries Without Borders” project is a testament to the transformative power of collaborative efforts, ensuring access to knowledge and resources for all while overcoming geographical challenges.
Executive Director, Mongolian Library Association
Davaasuren is a highly experienced library professional with over a decade of senior-level library management at the National Library of Mongolia and professional associations. She holds an Australia Awards Scholarship, earning a Master’s degree in Library and Information Management from the University of South Australia in 2016.
In 2018, Davaasuren spearheaded the re-establishment of the Mongolian Library Association, garnering support from Mongolian library professionals locally and internationally. Her career spans diverse roles, from the National Library of Mongolia to non-profit and international organizations, providing her with expertise in strategy development, team leadership, stakeholder management, partnership building, and project coordination. Davaasuren is not only a skilled trainer but also a compelling public speaker.
As the leader of the “Libraries Without Borders” project, she has conducted capacity-building training sessions across Mongolia, benefiting over 700 participants. Davaasuren’s influence extends to her role as a keynote speaker and facilitator at regional and national library conferences and workshops. During her time in Ohio in 2019, she presented the highlights of Mongolia’s library field to OCLC staff members. She collaborates closely with IFLA and various professional bodies within the global library field.
Her dedication and achievements have garnered prestigious awards, including the Australia Awards Scholarship and the Jay Jordan IFLA/OCLC Career Development Fellowship Award.
Davaasuren actively fosters Australia-Mongolia diplomatic relations within the education and information sectors, serving as a board member of the Mongolia-Australia Society. She is committed to sharing best practices from the Australian library and education systems with Mongolia, explicitly focusing on marginalized communities and youth. Davaasuren strongly believes in the transformative power of libraries to change lives, promote democracy, and uphold human rights. She is a passionate advocate for libraries and their capacity to make a meaningful impact on society.