Many Libraries Later

Lena Olsson´s red hair and energetic spirit have for many years been part of the Institute. Not only in Lund, where she has been running the Raoul Wallenberg Institute Human Rights Library on the top floor of Stora Gråbrödersgatan. The library is today one of the most recognized human rights libraries in Europe.

But the Institute is also working to promote and support libraries at various universities around the world, as part and parcel of the larger program to support academic education in human rights. Lena has developed a library component of the support, for instance in Fort Hare where Nelson Mandela studied to become a lawyer. Today support to universities where master courses in human rights is in the curricula has been keeping her busy. Universities in Zimbabwe and Mocambique can serve as examples. The support to libraries had its focus on knowledge management and support in building up their technical and scholarly resources. To reach that goal there is a need of a good collection of printed books, with a catalogue on the web site and with the books kept in opens shelves to guarantee easy access, also on how electronic resources are purchased and maintained and how to create guides with links to human rights resources. Knowledge management as well as policy issues have been one part of the training.

— Earlier I could see books kept in someone’s office or behind locked glass doors. In Sweden we have come far with opening up also the academic libraries to the citizens – libraries are all public. Something that impress on colleagues abroad!

— My ambition has been to diminish the horrendous gaps in access to information between those  who have access to ‘everything’ and those who have to struggle  to get access to information they need for studies, research and writings. The access to information is the most important feature of libraries, she says. I have had the good fortune to work to develop the entire thinking around libraries in a time where digitalization and the concept of open access and open sources software have been changing the landscape for librarians and researchers around the world.

–It is important to understand that many of the universities we work with don´t have the same access to the internet as we have in Europe, she says. At the same time, the power of the internet is well known, and the curiosity is blooming at the universities. And with increased access comes a need to structure and organize the information, which is the challenge for many universities.

In the last years Lena´s scope of work has also been extended to include the library component for National Human Rights Institutions, NHRI´s. The latest challenge is the library at the newly installed NHRI in Myanmar as well as a web site set up for the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission.

— I have been to Myanmar two times the last year, and I can see that they are on the right track. It would have been interesting to follow them a bit further, but I guess that has been the nature of my job all my life…there are also some new challenges around the corner.

Lena´s main workplace has been on the top floor of Stora Gråbrödersgatan in Lund, where she has been guiding and supporting researchers, teachers, master students and others and been responsible for purchasing and presenting literature on Human Rights.

–Having a library is one of the requirements in the original mandate of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, and I am proud to mention that almost 30 years later, the library is one of the top human rights libraries in Europe.

–We have 175 visitors a day, which is great, and many of the students are regulars that I get to know quite well throughout their master studies. The contact with students from all over the world has really been one of the highlights with my job. It has also been a great pleasure to work together with researchers, teachers, doctoral students, master students, colleagues and others. I will miss that when I retire! I have also had an extensive collaboration with the Law Faculty and its Library and the network among librarians at Lund University.


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