This article assesses the recent development of libraries in Myanmar and efforts to build the sector's capacity leading up to and after the first democratic elections held in the country in nearly 50 years, at the end of 2015. Cyclone Nargis in 2008 is viewed as a 'framing event' (Birkland, 1998) that led to national legal and policy reforms, an increase in national and international projects to support development of Myanmar libraries, and the strengthening of local actors including the Myanmar Library Association to coordinate and lead development activities. Although in need of modernisation, networking, and professional skills, the existence of a widespread number of all library types across the country provides an important foundation for further development. The current status and readiness of libraries is explored in the broader context of the rapid leap from limited to more widely available access to information and technology. The article finds that there is great potential for libraries in Myanmar to support the continued transition to democracy as evidenced by the role of libraries and access to information in other countries that have transitioned. Remaining challenges include the potential of backsliding on national reforms, and the need for significant investments in infrastructure and skills. Libraries must be transformed to meet the changing needs of information users in a young democracy.
Myanmar; library associations; capacity building; access to information; policy; democracy
Journal of Information Science Theory and Practice