The three types of documentation centers available for research in Port-au-Prince are affected by the situation
Many documentation centers in the metropolitan area, shelters of very rare book resources, are bearing the full brunt of gang gunfire, according to official revelations to AyiboPost.
Due to insecurity, the Haitian Library of the Brothers of Christian Instruction (BHFIC), one of the largest in the entire Caribbean, is forced to relocate its premises to Delmas.
Closed since February, the space located at Rue du Centre, in the heart of the capital, is now closed.
“We tried to hold on since there were people who continued to frequent the space, but it became difficult for our employees to work in such conditions,” Marie-France Guillaume, the director of the library, told AyiboPost.
The BHFIC, founded in 1912 and providing public services to the Haitian community since 1920, houses documents on the history, culture, legislation, religion and medicine in Haiti.
The archival collection of the Brothers of Christian Instruction also houses records of old newspapers such as: Feuille de Commerce (1832), the official newspaper Le Moniteur from 1865 to present day, l’Union Patriotique (1873), Le Matin (1898 – August 2013), Le Nouvelliste from 1898 to present day.
The three types of documentation centers available for research in Port-au-Prince—public and private universities, foundations, and municipal and cultural libraries—are affected by the situation.
The 150 years of the Haitian Library of Spiritans (BHS) do not spare it downtown.
The facade of the building, hit during heavy gunfire, is punctured by the impact of projectiles. The building, which contains more than 35,000 books, around 1,000 copies of scientific journals, and 500 maps and archival documents, is now unavailable to readers.
The library has experienced turmoil throughout its history.
On August 15, 1969, the dictator François Duvalier decided to expel the Spiritan brothers, Antoine Adrien, Ernst Verdieu, Jean-Paul Claude, Max Dominique, and Paddy Poux, for suspicion of communist activities. During this period, « the library was shuttered for almost twenty years, » adds Patrick Tardieu, curator of the BHS.
The institution reopened in 1996, but its premises were completely destroyed during the earthquake of January 12, 2010. The BHS was rebuilt and then became functional again in 2019.
The Antonio André Convention and Documentation Center of the Central Bank of Haiti (BRH) is also paralyzed downtown, as well as the archives of the parliament in the Bicentenaire.
The National Library of Haiti on Rue du Centre remains one of the largest centers in the country given the richness of its collections. Due to the instability of the area, the institution is unable to function normally.
On the other hand, the Monique Calixte Library (BMC) of the Knowledge and Freedom Foundation has been temporarily closed since Covid-19.
On July 6, 2023, FOKAL announced the start of construction on the new BMC premises, on Rue M in Port-au-Prince, in order to allow the library to « adapt to the circumstances and to grow independently.”
Long before the rise of insecurity in 2019, Jérôme Paul Eddy Lacoste, librarian and professor at the Faculty of Human Sciences (FASCH), took his students to visit the National Library of Haiti (BNH), the Haitian Library of the Brothers of Christian Instruction (BHFIC), the National Archives, etc.
This practice, says Lacoste, is no longer in place since he twice found himself at the BNH with students, in instances of heavy shooting in the surrounding area.
The library of the Pye Poudre Cultural Center, located in Bourdon, works with a local public composed mainly of schoolchildren. Attendance continues to decline despite the introduction of online activities, adds Max Robenson Vilaire Dortilus, cultural mediator and director of the center.
The closure of documentation centers is greatly affecting researchers. « We have students, professionals, researchers and doctoral students who are in great difficulty when it comes to accessing documentation, » says Jérôme Paul Eddy Lacoste.
English translation by Sarah Jean.
Cover image : Portrait of Dr. Jean Price Mars (1876-1968) within the premises of the Haitian Library of the Brothers of Christian Instruction (BHFIC). | © David Lorens Mentor/AyiboPost
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