Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University (ACKU)

Introduction

Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University (ACKU) was established in 1989 as a central depository for information on Afghanistan. Since its inception, the center has collected more than 120,000 items, 40 per cent of which are in the local Afghan languages, Dari and Pashto.

ACKU houses a large and unique collection of books, documents, and films related to Afghanistan's history and struggle for independence. It collects information from a wide array of sources about current activities in our country, all of which will be vital in providing reliable information to policy planners, program implementers, and future leaders, including faculty members and students at all Afghan universities. All modern IT is available at the Centre for research related to Afghanistan.

ACKU provides the most comprehensive collection of materials related to Afghanistan in the region. ACKU collects, stores, preserves, and shares information with a wide body of readers in both urban and rural settings so as to encourage the development of a qualitatively literate society capable of contributing to the growth of the nation. It also provides a congenial environment for interactions and interchange by Afghans, and international students and researchers, and policy makers. There are tremendous gaps in knowledge and understanding in Afghanistan today. ACKU exists to fill this gap and to build and strengthen the capacity and culture of research.

Objectives of ACKU

ACKU's overall mission is to support the process of nation-building by providing a platform for sharing information, encouraging research and the exchange of ideas, and contributing to the habit of reading among Afghans. With this in mind, ACKU's goal is to ensure access to knowledge in order to foster and understanding of the social, economic, political and cultural dynamics of Afghan society, now and in the past.

Facilities such as ACKU are well-positioned to play a key role in the rebuilding of the country's infrastructure. By providing research, education, and public programs and by preserving and providing wider access to its collection, ACKU will ensure that the people of Afghanistan once again have important resources about their history, culture, and development during one of the country's darkest periods.

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Current Activities

Acquisitions

The collection of documents generated by UN agency system, NGO community, individuals and government departments is one of ACKU's main activities. These documents are collected by various means. ACKU staff conducts regular visits to all organizations and collect documents manually. Over a period of time, organizations begin to include ACKU on their distribution lists and documents arrive regularly. Because of the effectiveness of this systematic system of collection and dissemination, ACKU is now regarded as the richest resource in the region for material related to Afghanistan. The Acquisitions Officer collects documents produced locally by government offices, civil society organizations, international and Afghan NGOs, the UN and the private sector, as well as pertinent material from the Internet.

Cataloging

The collections are catalogued according to a classification system based on the Bibliotheca Afghanica together with the US Library of Congress Subject Headings. The daily cataloging activity aims to make more and more records available to researchers and scholars.

A computer-based cataloguing systems was installed in 2000, and in 2007, ACKU installed the Greenstone Open Source database system.

Database and Website

The Greenstone Open Source database system is a professional one that has modernized the system and made it easy to access. With unlimited webspace provided by Waikato University in New Zealand (one of the developers of Greenstone), ACKU has the capacity to upload all of its PDFs. The documents are listed in the Greenstone database compatible with international standards, serviced and managed by Waikato University in New Zealand. The database is linked to the ACKU Website, www.acku.edu.af.

Digitization and CD ROMs/DVDs

Many documents have been digitized to preserve data and widen distribution networks with development and research institutions in Afghanistan and abroad. CD ROMs and DVDs are prepared for these purposes. To date, more than 12,000 titles – approximately 1.7 million pages are available in PDF format.

Reading Room

ACKU Reading Room is the only place on Kabul University campus that provides free access to Internet to all students and visitors to the Reading Room. The spacious reading room provides computers for access to the Centre's catalogue database, the Internet, and audio-visual materials. Over 3,600 users visit the reading room each month. Readers include students, professors, government officials, development workers, journalists, and international visitors. A photocopier is available for those who require copies of ACKU material for reference purposes.

Outreach: ACKU Box Library Extension (ABLE)

See a video about ABLE.

ACKU's outreach component, known as ABLE (ACKU Box Library Extension), distributes easy-to-read reading materials to communities and high schools. ABLE has 250 high school and community libraries, covering all of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan. These box libraries, containing Dari and Pashto books on subjects of general interest as also practical value, are placed in provincial high schools and communities in locations selected by the communities, such as clinics, schools, mosques and shops. The libraries are managed by local custodians, and monitored by ABLE staff through regular visits and updates. More than 600 additional libraries modeled on the ABLE program are operating across the country.

ACKU has begun working with Provincial Councils to ensure they have the documents and materials they require. See more about ACKU's work with Provincial Councils.

Publications

The ABLE publication section works with local authors and illustrators to develop and publish local-language books for neo literates. To date, 250,000 copies of 351 high-quality, easy-to-read book titles in Dari and Pashto have been published for distribution through the ABLE network, and for sale to assistance agencies. The books are a practical response to Afghanistan's felt needs – basic healthcare, eye care and income generation activities like bee keeping and poultry keeping. Books are also included on subjects ranging from history to politics to literature to agriculture to Islamic studies to cultural heritage of the country to arts and poetry, even children's stories.

Basic Library Training

As part of the capacity building of libraries in Kabul, ACKU has conducted two training programs for 25 and 20 librarians respectively. The first batch was supported by the American Embassy and the second by the Canadian Program Support Unit.

A basic introductory training intended for those working in libraries across Kabul without any formal training or degree in Library Sciences, the training was conducted in the local language Dari. The course content covers 72 hours of instruction, and the syllabus includes General Information in Library Science; Cataloguing; Acquisitions; Reference; and Analytic Cataloguing. More such training sessions are planned.

Building and Strengthening Research Capacity and Culture

The massive brain drain and collapse of the educational system over the past three decades has left Afghanistan with limited local capacity to conduct research. ACKU aims to strengthen analytical capacity in Afghanistan, and to build the capacity of Afghanistan generally through the promotion of research and learning.

Faculty-specific induction courses focus on the fundamental concepts of academic research, including database use and Internet search engines. This helps students learn and develop research techniques, such as topic selection, concepts on plagiarism and ethical issues, and how to identify and create citations.

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Future Activities

With space and funding, there is no end to imaginative projects that may be considered. Some planned activities include the following.

Exhibitions and Events

Together with research institutes in Afghanistan and visiting scholars, the Centre will organize programs to fulfill the intense desire of the youth to acquire knowledge not only of their history, culture and heritage, but also of the current reconstruction developments. Because during the wars years the education system in Afghanistan deteriorated grievously, and because many youth growing up in exile were unable to acquire information on their culture, the Centre's users express an avid desire to learn about their heritage and the recent past. These programs will enhance their abilities to cope with present circumstances, deepen their understanding of the participatory and pluralistic nature of democracy and refine their leadership skills.

Student-led Dialogues

Critical thinking and intellectual creativity using the Centre's resources will be encouraged through forums in which students will speak and present papers on social, economic and political issues. Video-conferencing with students and professors in universities around the world will be encouraged and arranged.

Student Research Papers

To further encourage intellectual creativity and develop research skills, students will be challenged to write papers focused on Afghanistan, citing at least five sources from the Centre and other scholarly journals from the Internet. The three best entries will be selected by a panel of judges and presented by the authors in a seminar-style setting. Selected dignitaries will award prizes.

Review Magazine

A review magazine, such as Biblio published from India, is primarily envisioned to highlight reviews of books on Afghan culture, the social sciences and environmental issues.

Archive on Human Rights

This will be established in cooperation with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

Contact ACKU

Email the staff at ACKU at: info@acku.edu.af

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