a) to put in order and protect the books present at the Library and to prepare and publish necessary lists of the books; b) to collate published books, magazines and journals of Iran and abroad;. c) to select and determine manuscript and printed books that Library should buy on a yearly basis. These are overtly generalised descriptions of the duties of any national library. The then head of the Sciences Library was Jahangir Shamsavari, who had just returned from the United States and was familiar with modern libraries. Another important development came in 1934 when the Ferdowsi Millennium Congress and Festival was held in Tehran. It was for the first time that a large number of prominent scholars on Iranian and orientalist studies from around the world would gather together in Iran. A hall within the Darol Fonoun Highschool was named after Ferdowsi and the works of the scholars attending the Congress and the books they had donated to the event were kept in the hall. After the Congress, the collection was transferred to the Sciences Library.
The first building of the National Library In late 1934, Mahdi Bayani, the head of the Sciences Library, who was petitioning better space for the Library, seized the opportunity to propose the establishment of “the National Library of Iran” to Ali Asghar Hekmat, the then Minister of Sciences, who in turn welcomed and accepted the proposal. Meanwhile, the building of the Museum Ancient Persia was under construction at the west corner of Mashq Square (where Imam Khomeini Ave meets 30th of Tir St today). On the northern side of this new building, a bare plot with a surface area of 3500 sq metres was located. In 1936, Ali Asghar Hekmat asked Reza Shah permission for the establishment of a specialised library in this plot for Museum of Ancient Persia and be named the Ferdowsi Library after the great Persian poet, Abolghassem Ferdowsi. Hekmat’s request was accepted by the king and Andre Godar, the French archaeologist and architect who had designed the building of the Museum of Ancient Persia, was asked to come up with a map for the library so that both buildings would look alike. The construction of the library’s building completed in 1937 and was thereafter referred to as The Ferdowsi Library in official correspondence. In the same year, Mahdi Bayani was appointed as the new custodian of the Library.
In the same year, Reza Shah ordered all printed and manuscriptsof the Royal Library of which more than one copy existed in the Library to be transferred to the public Library of Sciences. In total, 13,712 printed and manuscript volumes were submitted to Bayani in several deliveries. Moreover, the private library of Aziz Khan Nedaee (Aziz Khan Khawdje), who had donated his belongings and had made the king the custodian of his donations, was moved to the Sciences Library. Another collection which was added to the National Library at the date of her inauguration consisted in 5000 books in Russian, French and German which originally belonged to the Russian Loan Bank. The Bank had been established in Iran in 1268 A.H. with the permission of Nassereddin Shah to compete with the Royal Bank, which belonged to Britain. After the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia and the creation of the Soviet establishment, Iran’s debts to the Loan bank which exceeded 40 million mantas were written off, the properties of the Bank were transferred to the Iranian government and her books submitted to the National Library of Iran. Thanks to the efforts of Mahdi Bayani, the collection of the Sciences Library together with the donations of the Royal Library, the Aziz Khan collection, that of the Loan Bank and a few private collections, which totalled 30,000 printed and manuscript volumes were moved to the new building erected next to the Museum of Ancient Persia, where the National Library of Iran was inaugurated on 25 August 1937. Habib Yaghmaee, the popular Iranian lyricist of the time has composed the following couplet in reference to the history of the emergence of the National Library:
Learn thee her history from Ferdowsi “Do not, a second, tire of learning”.
Historical developments The National Library had not been open for long before space problems rose again, which made Bayani start writing to Godar, who was the Director-General of the Iranian Archaeological Department at the same time. Finally and in the second half of the 1950s, another building with a surface area of 570 square metres was erected between the older building and the wall to the Foreign Affairs Ministry compound (which was located to the eastern side of the National Library). At least for a decade, the National Library was less faced with space problems as a result. In the ensuing decade, however, limited space again rose as a major challenge to the National Library, but because plans were being made to build a new, Pahlavi National Library, this debate was actually crossed off as an agenda priority of the authorities. The idea behind the establishment of another national library had emerged mainly due to the fact that the existing National Library had not acted, either in its organisation and statue or in actual responsibilities and manpower, according to accepted criteria and standards of library management science. Its statute and guidelines had been devised in such a way that could more cater for the needs of an ordinary public library. Neither in its terms of reference nor directives could any trace be found of the responsibilities of a national library. The Library was not responsible for collating and organising published material of the country, collecting works about Iran published elsewhere in the world and assisting other public libraries around the country. Even it did not follow the Book Submission Law by the virtue of which publishers were obliged “to send two copies of each material they publish to the National Library to keep her collection complete” (Article 5 of Publication Law ratified on Moharram 5, 1325 A.H., Chapter 2-publication of books). In reality, the National Library acted more as a public library or rather a reading house. Especially since the early 1960s, the Library turned into a cover for the censorship administration and according to the amended directive for the establishment of printing firms (ratified in 1964), managers of printing firms had to send two copies of each printed material before they were bound with the full identification of their author or translator as well as the exact number of copies to be finally printed “to the National Library in Tehran so that within ten days they would be registered in a special bureau that would be set up for this purpose”. The Book Registration Directive was independently passed by the Council of Ministers on 29 February 1977. The National Library would publish an incomplete and irregular national Iranian bibliography since 1963, which was way behind the globally accepted norms and principles of library science and could not at all assist other libraries in the country. The first three to four decades of the life of Iran’s National Library spent on publishing lists of her manuscripts. In the mid-1960s important developments occurred in Iran’s library management which had nothing to do with the National Library of the country. These included: the establishment of the Faculty of Library Science at Tehran University, the organisation of Masters Programmes in library science, the establishment of the Iranian Library Management Society and the Library Services Centre, which together with its sister centre, the Scientific Information and Documents Centre, at the Ministry of Sciences and Higher Education, came into being in 1968. Therefore, the establishment of a national library under global, scientific standards would create an opportunity for these institutions to take more advantage of it and for public libraries to interact more amongst each other, leading to a national library management and information dissemination system in the country. In this light, IFLA was asked in 1973 to assist Iran in establishing a modern national library. During IFLA’s World Conference in 1973, Iran’s representatives asked Mr Libarez, the President of IFLA at the time, who headed the Pahlavi National Library Project at the same time, to give a greater role to Iranian library managers in the establishment of the new national library as an important cultural development in the history of their country. As a result, the Pahlavi National Library Project was handed over to the Library Management and Scientific Documents Centres of Iran. In 1975, Nasser Sharifi, the then Dean of the College of Library Science in Pratt, USA, invited 60 famous library managers and architects of the world to visit Iran for one month in order to assess the architecture and libraries of the country. During this visit, 15 Iranian library managers co-operated with the delegation. The outcome of this first visit was Nasseri’s proposal to the Iranian government to build a library in 350,000 square metres. The proposal was called unacceptable, ambitious and unrealistic by IFLA’s Technical Committee as well as Iranian library managers. After some revisions, a second proposal by Jean-Pierre Clavel, the head of the library of Lausanne University was offered: a library in 94,000 square metres which was officially accepted by the Iranian government in 1976 and put to contest. From 600 maps sent in the contest from around the world, the jury consisting of Iranian and foreign architects and library scientists announced the German company, von Gerekon, Mark und Partners, as the winners. Amendments and assessments had not been finalised when the Islamic revolution in Iran brought the project to a halt. After the victory of the revolution, the first steps to improve the situation of the National Library were taken in 1979: the merger of the Library Services Centre and the National Library of Iran, which were both affiliated with the then Ministry of Culture and Higher Education, was proposed to the Minister, who accepted the proposal. But the merger actually took off the ground only in 1981 and as a result, the Library Services Centre and all its equipment and manpower were transferred to the old building of the National Library, the same place that had suffered from limited physical space for about two decades. New studies were made to see if governmental or semi-governmental buildings could be sued to help reduce the problems of the National Library. In 1980, a 7-manned committee, consisting of representatives of the Library Services Centre, the National Library, several engineers and a representative of Qom visited buildings available in Tehran and finally chose a building that had been built as the cultural office of Farah Pahlavi in Niavaran, to the north of the Niavaran Cultural Centre. In March 1981, the final report of the committee was submitted to the Minister of Culture and Higher Education and was accepted on 07 April 1981. However, the reshuffle of the Minister and the interference of non-specialists who were not even officially involved in the project kept it at bay. After the merger of the Library Services Centre with the National Library in 1983, the space crisis of the Library worsened into nearly impossible conditions. Ultimately, part of the Niavaran building was handed over to the National Library and consequently the Library divided her operations between three separate locations. The scattering of the manpower and the different sections of the Library raised numerous problems against her efficient functioning. As a result, the discussion over the provision of an appropriate building for the Library got off the ground in 1990. Subsequently, all background data and previous documents were submitted to Pir Raz Consulting Engineers Company, which had been introduced by the Ministry of Housing and City Construction to the Library. All the previous proposed maps and plans were revised, checked and balanced again. The outcome of the fresh studies was a plan for 90,000 square metres of land which was put to a national contest. On 29 July 1995, the contest jury announced Pir Raz Consulting Engineers Company to be the winners out of a total of five proposals that had officially entered into the competition. The construction work started in the Abbas Abad region of Tehran and its first phase was officially inaugurated on March 01, 2004. As a result, all the manpower and sections of the National Library converged in one location. The second phase of the project (the troves for books and other resources) will be completed by mid-2006.
The merger of the Tehran Book Procesing Centre (TEBROC) with the National Library On 20 November 1999, the Islamic Revolution Cultural Documents Organisation, affiliated with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, was merged with the National Library, thus increasing the number of the Library’s buildings to eight. Another important development in the early years of the current decade was the merger of the National Documents Organisation with the National Library and the creation of the new “The Documents and National Library of the Islamic Republic of Iran”. In her 95th session on 24 August 2002, the High Administration Council (as earlier suggested by the Management and Planning Organisation) advocated this merger in order to “organise document management, co-ordinate the storage of textual works and documents (prints and manuscripts) and non-textual works, papers, correspondence, notebooks, and other national documents of executive, etc institutions of the country, to facilitate such storage and access to the documents, to economise the incurred costs and to prevent repeated functions”. In paragraph C of Article II of this resolution, signed by the then Vice President and the Secretary of the High Administration Council, it has been mentioned that “the responsibilities and specialised functions of the National Documents Organisation and the National Library will continue within two independent directorates named The National Library Directorate and The National Documents Directorate with independent agendas and annual budgets”. Again, in Article III of the same resolution this independence of functions has been stressed: “The Documents and National Library of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be run in accordance with the statute of the National Library of the Islamic Republic of Iran ratified by the Islamic Consultative Assembly on 24 October 1990. The establishment law of the National Documents Organisation of Iran ratified on 27 April 1970 will be mandatory in all cases except in cases where the law contradicts the above-mentioned statute.” The resolution also emphasises “the merger of duties, functions, and research units of the converged organisations [the Documents Organisation and the National Library] into one management and its relevant directorates”. It asks the newly established organisation to “… define its organigram within three months and have it ratified by the Management and Planning Organisation” [paragraphs A, B, C, D of Article I]. In the appendix to Article VI, the three-month deadline has been reiterated. Article IV of the resolution reserves the right of “organising archive systems in the country’s executive institutions and determining document storage methods” for the Management and Planning Organisation. But collating, evaluating, destroying or storing of documents that have archival value due to national reasons has been rightly defined to be the duty of the National Documents Directorate of “the Documents and National Library of Iran”. Furthermore, Article V of the resolution asks the new Organisation to “define standards for listing, indexing and paving the grounds for the creation of a national network and instruct document institutions of the country accordingly within six months in order to standardise the exploitation of documents”. And finally Article VII of the resolution obliges the Management and Planning Organisation to supply necessary budgets so that the Documents and National Library will be enabled to “list, index, scan, and create networks for national documents”.According to the organigram ratified in January 2002, the president of the Documents and National Library Organisation is selected by the Organisation’s Board of Trustees and officially appointed for the post by the decree of the President of the country. The Board of Controllers and the National Documents Council are two assisting bodies for the President of the Organisation. The following units operate under the President: The National Library Directorate; The National Documents Directorate; The Logistics Directorate; The Research and Training Department; The Office of the President, Public and International Relations; The Security Department; The Human Resources Selection Department; The Information Technology Development Department;In turn, five Bureaus operate directly under the National Library Directorate:The Processing Bureau (responsible for acquiring resources and organising them); The Digital Resources Production Bureau; The Rare Manuscripts Bureau (responsible for acquiring, organising, and especially preserving and storing manuscript, lithographicand rare books); The Public Information Bureau (assisting referents to the Library in finding and using desired resources by manual and automatic systems); The Reference and Specialised Information Bureau (consisting in specialised resources in the humanities and social sciences, arts and technology, Iranian and Islamic Studies, non-book resources and periodicals); The Logistics Directorate (including Financial, Administrative, projects, Plans and Budgets Departments) tries alongside the two Directorates of the National Library and National Documents to create optimal conditions for them to carry out their functions and responsibilities in a smooth and efficient manner.
The new building of the National Library The new building has been planned in such a way that apart from the Library’s management corpus, logistical units and a car park, it houses eight important, specialised centres of book keeping and separate troves for printed reference and non-reference books, manuscripts and rare books, as well as non-book resources, being fully compatible with every new development in IT technology.The new building also makes it possible for the specialised troves to be in direct and interactive contact with each other. The main collection of the National Library are stored in closed troves in the basement of the building but reference resources (general and specialised) are placed in open book cases in the reading halls. The manuscripts and rare books trove has special facilities to preserve and store the cultural heritage of the country. These modern facilities make it possible to transfer resources from the trove to the lending sections. The building has a total storage capacity of seven million volumes.
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