IFLA has responded with sadness to the destruction of the Central Library of the Universidad de Oriente in Venezuela, and calls on the Venezuelan government and others to do more to protect libraries.

The last days have brought the sad news of the apparently deliberate destruction of the central library of the Universidad de Oriente, in Sucre, Venezuela.

Coming in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a period of intense economic difficulty for many, this is an additional blow to the staff, university community and country as a whole.

As set out through UNESCO’s Unite for Heritage campaign, such destruction causes losses not just in material terms, but also lasting social and cultural damage.

It also runs against the spirit of the Safer Schools Declaration, which underlines the need, in any situation, to protect the ability of schools and universities to provide opportunities for learning and development.

Both initiatives make clear that governments, both under international law and as a duty to their own people, have an obligation to act to ensure the safety of libraries faced with the threat of violence.

IFLA President Christine Mackenzie said:

‘It was so sad to hear about the destruction of the library at the Universidad de Oriente in Venezuela – my heart goes out to its staff and users, and I wish them courage and strength at such a difficult time. It is so vital that libraries are seen – and protected – as key to the present and futures of the communities they serve. I urge governments to recognise this, and to give the necessary support to make it a reality’

IFLA Secretary Gerald Leitner said:

‘Whenever a community loses access to its library, it loses a key part of its infrastructure for learning, research, and the enjoyment of cultural rights. When this is the result of deliberate action, this is doubly tragic. On behalf of IFLA and the global library community, I send my condolences to the staff and users of the Universidad de Oriente, and call on the government of Venezuela and all other countries to ensure the protection of our institutions and teams’.

Find out more about IFLA’s work on cultural heritage.