In November 2008, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a grant to Stichting eIFL.net to help the National Library of Mongolia (NLM) create a strategic plan in the course of 2009.
eIFL.net is an international not-for-profit organisation with a base in Europe and a global network of partners. It works with libraries around the world to enable sustainable access to high-quality digital information for people in developing and transition countries. Founded in 1999, eIFL.net began by advocating for affordable access to commercial e-journals for academic and research libraries in Central and Eastern Europe. Today, eIFL.net partners with libraries and library consortia in over 45 developing and transition countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. Its work has also expanded to include other programmes designed to increase access to knowledge. eIFL.net’s approach is to partner with libraries organised in national library consortia - groups of libraries that share common goals - thereby effectively reaching millions of people. Library consortia can speak with one voice to stakeholders and policy makers, and share resources and activities in order to serve their communities.
Mongolia is a huge land-locked country bordering Russia and China. Its 3 million inhabitants are somewhat isolated geographically and linguistically and by comparative poverty. English is not much used and the National Library of Mongolia is little known in the West. Even its links with China and Russia are not strong though many of its senior staff were trained in the former Soviet Union.
The circumstances creating the opportunity for the National Library of Mongolia to raise its profile and potentially transform the library scene in Mongolia depended on two main events: the decision of the Emir of Kuwait announced late in 2007 to gift a new national library building to Mongolia; and the development of the eIFL-supported Consortium of Mongolian Libraries in Mongolia. The former raised the profile of the Library in government and necessitated a focus on planning. The latter helped provide a professional forum in which issues could be examined and library stakeholders consulted.
The National Library of Mongolia, also known as the State Central Library, is the largest library in Mongolia with more than 3 million books and publications, and an outstanding collection of 1 million rare and valuable [mainly religious] books and manuscripts. Potentially one of its most important roles is to act as the ‘methodological centre’ for professional in-service training for public librarians in Mongolia. The national library has been connected to the Internet since 2001 and is also a key member of the recently founded Consortium of Mongolian Libraries that aims to expand access to electronic resources for academics and researchers, students and citizens.