A Visitor from Kabul

Afghan librarian stops by ALA headquarters

March 28, 2017

Hamayoun Ghafoori, assistant library director of the American University of Afghanistan.
Hamayoun Ghafoori, assistant library director of the American University of Afghanistan.

While on a US State Department–sponsored trip to United States libraries, the assistant library director of the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul visited the American Library Association offices in Chicago. Hamayoun Ghafoori stopped by American Libraries to talk about his library and what he’s learned during his American tour.

Ghafoori, who has been with AUAF since 2008, said he had visited several public, academic, and government libraries in the past three weeks, among them San Diego (Calif.) Public Library, University of Nebraska Omaha library, the Library of Congress, the State Library of Maine, and Lithgow Public Library in Augusta, Maine. He was impressed with the way US libraries are incorporating makerspaces into their menu of services, and he hoped that public libraries in Afghanistan could find a way to fund similar projects.

“One of the concepts I am taking back home with me is the way that US libraries are welcoming children,” Ghafoori said. “In Afghanistan, public libraries have traditionally been only for adults. But it’s impossible to nourish a reading culture and foster widespread literacy without starting with young people.”

The AUAF campus opened in 2006 with funding help from the US Agency for International Development and offers graduate and undergraduate programs based on the American semester system. Ghafoori said that a mastery of English is a requirement for acceptance, and the majority of the library’s 26,000 volumes are in English. The university serves some 1,700 students, about half of whom are women, he said.

Ghafoori is now the only staff member with library training (one other library professional left in June 2016). He took advanced cataloging classes at US university extensions in Qatar in 2009 and mastered the Koha integrated library system in India in 2012. Ghafoori said he still enjoys doing some of the cataloging work at the library.

Ghafoori was expected to return to Kabul on March 28, the same day AUAF classes resumed after a seven-month hiatus following an attack by two gunmen on the campus that left 15 dead. He said that the university has hired a private security company that will help make the campus safer.