Senate okays Bill setting up archives, library body

The senate on Friday approved a bill that seeks to establish Rwanda Archives and Library Services Authority (RALSA), a national institution that will provide both public archive and library services.
Students checking through books at Kigali Public Library. Senate has approved a Bill setting up  Rwandan Archives and Library Authority.   T.Kisambira
Students checking through books at Kigali Public Library. Senate has approved a Bill setting up Rwandan Archives and Library Authority. T.Kisambira

The senate on Friday approved a bill that seeks to establish Rwanda Archives and Library Services Authority (RALSA), a national institution that will provide both public archive and library services.

RALSA’s responsibilities will include advising government on policies and strategies related to the management of archives and library services, developing public archives and library service centres, as well as raising funds for that purpose.

The agency will also conduct research in the area of archives and library services, issue instructions relating to the management of records to be retained and disposed of, and assign serial numbers for books and other publications.

The Minister for Sports and Culture, Protais Mitali, welcomed the approval of the Bill, indicating that the new agency will promote the culture of reading and writing in Rwanda through its regulation, promotion, and dissemination activities.

“The law will help us implement the country’s policy on libraries and archives. These are services that we critically need, especially keeping important national archives and facilitating people who would like to access them,” Mitali said in an interview with The New Times on Friday, shortly after attending the senators’ session.

RALSA will acquire, process, and preserve public and private records and make them available for public consumption.

It will also develop and avail national standards for all types of libraries including standards relating to infrastructure, libraries and technical services.

The new body will have legal personality, administrative and financial autonomy and will be governed in accordance with laws governing public institutions in the country.

An order of the minister in charge of archives and library services will determine procedures for preservation of books in archives and libraries and determine the list of copies of works to be submitted to RALSA.

If it is successfully set up, analysts say the new body will help to promote the culture of reading by extending written material to communities across the country.

Stephen Mugisha, the country manager of Fountain Publishers Rwanda, said the creation of RALSA will be a milestone in the country where libraries are not common.

“I am looking at it as an important step in entrenching the culture of reading; which is very important. It’s normally the National Library Services that extends reading materials to the people,” he said.

His company, Fountain Publishers Rwanda, focuses on developing and strengthening local authors and the reading culture in the country.

Gerald Mpyisi, an advocate  of reading culture welcomed the creation of RALSA. He was among those behind the creation of the modern and now two-year-old Kigali Public Library.

 “We hope that one of the roles that the agency will play is to maintain standards for both the quality of books distributed and the standard of services in the libraries,” he said.

The law establishing RALSA stipulates that the body will have a Board of Directors, a Directorate General, and staff members.

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