The Sri Lanka Library Association
Constituted in 1961 and incorporated by Act No. 20 of 1974. Being a founder member of the Organisation of Professional Associations, it has representation on the OPA Council.
The SLLA has forged firm cooperative links with foreign organisations. It is a founder member of the Commonwealth Library Association (COMLA) and a member of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), headquarters respectively in London and Brussels. In 2000, IFLA held its regional conference here in Colombo, while again, early this year the Regional Standing Committee on Asia & Oceania (RSCAO) met in Colombo for its biannual sessions and meeting.
What the SLLA does
It works closely with the National Library and Documentation Services Board (NLDSB) and ensures that standards of librarianship are maintained; that development goes on apace; and that Sri Lankan librarianship keeps pace with, and runs parallel to, as far as possible, librarianship as practiced in the more developed countries of the world.
With regard to the promotion of the professional, the SLLA concerns itself with professional development and welfare of library personnel. Continuing education programmes are conducted to keep working librarians updated on professional practices.
Vast contributions to librarianship in the country have been made by distinguished members of the association. To name but one person: the present president of the SLLA, N. U. Yapa, has very significantly contributed to computerisation of library services. He designed an integrated library management system using WinISIS, a software package distributed by UNESCO to developing countries. The system designed by Upali Yapa is being used by more than fifty libraries in Sri Lanka.
The SLLA’s education programme
The most significant service rendered by the SLLA, which benefits the most number of persons, is its education programme. Since the early 1960s it has been a professional-qualification awarding body. It was the sole educating and training organisation until the University of Kelaniya started its first degree course in library and information science (LIS).
The SLLA conducts a three-tiered, part-time, diploma awarding course of study in librarianship and information science (LIS), in the three mediums: Sinhala, Tamil and English in five centres: Colombo, Galle, Kandy, Batticaloa and Jaffna.
Technicians’ courses and computer application in libraries courses (COLA) have been conducted for several years. The latter course, started by N. U. Yapa, has paved the way for the computerization of very many Sri Lankan libraries. Recently UNESCO (New Delhi) identified SLLA as the most competent body in computerization of libraries in the South Asian region. As a result, UNESCO requested the SLLA to undertake the computerization of the newly reconstructed Jaffna Public Library. This project will be off the ground in July.
Intra-country distance education courses have been conducted.
Outreach education has been extended to the Republic of the Maldives. On request, the SLLA conducted the three-year diploma course for Maldivian librarians. The first batch of students have successfully completed their final exam this year. The SLLA is poised to undertake another programme for the College of Higher Education, Male.
The most noteworthy feature of the SLLA is that programmes: lecturing, supervising project work, training in library work, setting exams, conducting them and marking scripts are all done by working librarians, often as a free service or for a comparatively meagre payment. The office, sited in the OPA building, is run by four paid employees.
Libraries, information and resource centres; and librarians, information persons, managers of libraries gain greater importance as the years go by, and are more in demand.
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