From Canada to Ethiopia – how the collection of a specialised library on adult education found a new home

A shipment of 40 boxes with books on adult education started its journey from the University of British Columbia (UBC, Vancouver, Canada) to the DVV International East/Horn of Africa Regional Office in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). The books are from the Coolie Verner Memorial Reading Room (CVMRR – Coolie Verner was the first Professor in the Department of Adult Education at UBC), which is a specialised library, affiliated with the Department of Educational Studies at UBC.

The closure of the CVMRR comes at a point when other libraries and information services in Canada also had to close down due to the deep funding cuts in adult learning and literacy research over the past few years that basically dismantled the Canadian literacy support infrastructure.

Coolie Verner Memorial Reading Room, University of British Columbia<br>© Maren Elfert

A shipment of 40 boxes with books on adult education started its journey from the University of British Columbia (UBC, Vancouver, Canada) to the DVV International East/Horn of Africa Regional Office in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). The books are from the Coolie Verner Memorial Reading Room (CVMRR – Coolie Verner was the first Professor in the Department of Adult Education at UBC), which is a specialised library, affiliated with the Department of Educational Studies at UBC. The collection holds hundreds of books and academic journals published between the 1920s and the late 1990s in the areas of adult education, community development, research methodologies, critical theory and feminist studies. The CVMRR is going to be closed due to the impending move of the department into another building.

Once the books have reached Ethiopia, some will be kept in the Resource Centre of the DVV International East/Horn of Africa Regional Office, the remainder will be sent to Universities throughout Ethiopia which have Adult Education and Community Development Departments (including Addis Ababa University). The shipment was made possible through the cooperation of the Department of Educational Studies, in particular Shauna Butterwick and Maren Elfert (UBC), Lisa Krolak (UIL, ALADIN coordinator, Hamburg) and Sonja Belete (East/Horn of Africa Regional Director, Addis Ababa).

The closure of the CVMRR comes at a point when other libraries and information services in Canada also had to close down due to the deep funding cuts in adult learning and literacy research over the past few years that basically dismantled the Canadian literacy support infrastructure. For example, in February 2015 Copian (Connecting Canadians in Learning, formerly known as NALD – National Adult Literacy Database) was legally dissolved after having represented the national, bilingual voice for adult literacy for more than 25 years, connecting adult learners’ organisations and practitioners to the latest information on literacy and essential skills. With resources in both English and French, the Copian library constituted the most comprehensive collection of digital tools and documents in Canada until federal funding ended in 2014.

During 2015, ALADIN, the Adult Learning Documentation and Information Network which connects more than 100 documentation and information services on adult learning and literacy, lost at least two Canadian network members. With the closure of Copian in Fredericton, ten information staff lost their jobs. And with the closure of the Centre for Literacy in Montreal in May 2015, an additional seven staff were laid off. Also in CDÉACF (Le Centre de documentation sur l’éducation des adultes et la condition féminine) in Montreal, although not closed down, severe budget cuts led to staff reductions and difficult working conditions. Copian was a member of the ALADIN network from the beginning. Luckily the Copian online library has been transferred to CDÉACF which, in collaboration with the RESDAC and the Centre for Literacy, re-launched the Copian bilingual online resource collection on their servers. CDÉACF has committed to keeping the name Copian for at least one year so the resources are recognisable to users and the memory of Copian is preserved. The Centre for Literacy has kept its website online for a year while they explore options with CDÉACF and other partners for ways to preserve their online resources. The 6000 physical items in their collection have been culled and distributed to various libraries and adult learning centres in Quebec and to Better World Books.

With a new Canadian government in place, we all sincerely hope that the Canadian funding situation for adult education and literacy will improve in the near future.

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DVV International coopèrent avec plus de 200 partenaires dans plus de 30 pays.

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