NALE:Origin, Development and
WIC 19/03/2000 (Addis Ababa)- An exhibition displaying manuscripts, documents, parchment books dating back to ancient times, newspapers, magazines, micro-films and microfiche was recently opened at the National Archives and Library of Ethiopia (NALE).
It was revealed on the occasion that information is a vital instrument for a country's development, the development of education and knowledge and of science and technology. Referring to information, it means cumulative knowledge properly collected and organized and placed in the most advantageous way, readily available for use.
For such efficient and appropriate information management, archives, libraries and documentation centres have a great role to play. It is, therefore, necessary that these be properly established institutions. Researches indicate that the effort to collect and keep in one center Ethiopia's documentary heritage dates back to the Axumite era. Apparently, Womezeker, now the National Archives and Library of Ethiopia, established in 1994, ushered the beginning of modern library in Ethiopia.
Although the Library has good collections, a great number of valuable written properties were destroyed due to man-made and natural disasters. Apart from the effort to preserve these heritage in traditional ways for years, there were no central,
authorized institutions to collect and secure them.
"For several years in the past," read a brochure distributed on the occasion, "the National Library took broader duties and responsibilities imposed upon it despite the fact that the sector has not been given enough attention to play a proper role
in the country's social and economic activities." It further noted this adversely contributed to the fact that the habit of reading has not been practical by the society. Sufficient researches that could help for the country's development have not been
Consequently, much has been done to tackle the problem in this sector. Now that special attention is given to the field, NALE was re-established to serve as an information centre and become accountable to the profession at national level.
The NALE is newly organized to incorporate in it and take responsibilities of the former Ethiopia Microfilm and Microfiche Library in addition to its functions of the Library and Archives Department.
The objectives of the organization are to collect, systematically organize, preserve and make the information resources of the country accessible for research and study purposes.
The organization ensures the proper handling and safety of records and operates as a national repository centre of documentary heritage in general. Apart from that, it makes efforts to bring to the country the original of copy of literary
documents which were taken out either legally or illegally. It also acquires and preserves records of defunct government offices ro institutions as well as archives.
Copyright, as we know, is not strictly respected in the country. Therefore, it is the duty and power of NALE to register copyright with regard to works of literature, history and science recorded on film magnetic tape, magnetic disc and other related literary works.
We also know that invaluable heritage are being smuggled out of the country. Therefore, it is again the boundless duty of the organization to collect these priceless and rare ancient manuscripts and icons, take a microfilm or microfiche copy of the
manuscripts and make them available for use.
Out of many valuable documents which the national library has collected in the last five years through purchase, donation and proclamation include historical manuscripts written in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries such as The Four Gospels, Saint Paul's Message and Passion Week, and such books like Psalm of David, Tobia, State and Public Governance, Wodajie Libie and World History.
It has also collected books and chronicles focusing on ancient, middle and modern Ethiopian political, economic, social and cultural affairs written by Ethiopian and foreign historians. also included in this collection are government and non-governmental magazines published since 1941- Berhanena Selam, Menen, Yekatit, etc.
Its newspapers collections published since 1902 include Aemero, Berhanena Selam, Dimits Eritrea, Yequesar Mengist, Dimits, Addis Zemen, Ethiopian Herald, Yezareyitu Ethiopia, Berissa, Al-Alem, etc.
The National Archives, established in 1976 at main division level began its functions by receiving government archives from the Ministry of the Grand Palace, Palace of the Crown Prince and from other prominent personalities. Some of the archives collected by the organization since then include those written by Ethiopian leaders-Emperor Theodros, King Yohannes IV, Emperor Menelik II, Ras Mekonnen and many other officials and scholarly people. The archives include letters, historical document, and photographs relating affairs substantial to the country ranging from territorial demarcation to diplomacy.
NALE has five divisions - Ethiopian Study Team, Reference and Documentation Team, Reference and Documentation Team, Legal Deposit and Bibliography Team, Archives Deposit and Information Service and Microfilm and Microfiche Library that render regular service to its users.