More than 12 percent of Vietnamese universities and colleges do not have libraries, while many existing school libraries are poorly equipped, outdated and neglected by lecturers and students.
Recent reports by news website Vietnamnet quoted a report by the Education Ministry as saying that 87.8 percent of 196 surveyed universities and colleges had traditional libraries.
But the ministry said that the real rate may be far lower as less than half of all universities and colleges were surveyed, according to reports on the website.
The ministry's report said many available libraries are outdated.
The survey pointed out that some 38.9 percent of schools surveyed had libraries that met national or international standards. Seventy-seven of the surveyed schools, or 39.7 percent of all surveyed, have e-libraries. The ministry report called the figure "too low."
Speaking to Vietnamnet, a representative of the Hanoi University of Mining and Geology said the school did not have enough books and that the ones it did have were out of date.
Leaders at the Hanoi University of Agriculture also said that even though their institution was a major school in the capital city, the university did not have an e-library. They said the school will ask for money from the Education Ministry's budget to build one in 2015.
According to the news website, at least three major universities in Hanoi the Academy of Journalism and Communication, the University of Education, and the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH) all lack the funding to improve their libraries.
Do Thuy Hang, chief of the journalism academy's library and information division, said every year the library is given some VND450 million (US$21,380), which was "too little." Thus, she said, the school bought books in "limited quantities."
The school has more than 1,500 students, but every year the library can only afford 50 new books for each textbook title, 10-20 for each specialized title, and one for a dictionary, Vietnamnet reported.
Hang said the library's Internet room was recently equipped with tens of computers, but it might be closed due to the lack of visitors. Titles there cannot be looked up electronically, she said.
The same situation was reported at University of Education, which is given VND300-350 million ($14,400-16,400) a year to update its library, which now has some 90,000 titles.
"With this kind of money, how can the library be developed to meet the demand of lecturers and students?" said Nguyen Thi Hong Trang, vice director of the university's library center.
Meanwhile, Ngo Thi Hong, chief of the USSH information and library office, said the libraries' 100,000 titles were not enough to satisfy the demand of thousands of students.
She also said with the area of 1,200 square meters, the library is not big enough to keep all the books, let alone all the students who want to study there during the examination seasons.
But due to its limited resources and research materials, few students and lecturers visit the library regularly, according to Hong.
Hong also said lecturers rarely visit the education university's library due to its limited materials.
In fact, speaking to Vietnamnet, many scholars who earned degrees overseas said that they had turned to foreign sources.
For instance, Thanh Hai, who earned a doctorate in food chemistry in France, said she never visited libraries in Vietnam because she could not find the materials she needed there.
Nguyen Duc Minh, who completed his doctorate thesis in biology at Sweden's Lund University, said Vietnamese libraries had only basic materials that were "barely" able to meet even a few of students' demands.
He said lecturers usually do not go to local libraries, because they fail to provide them with the world's latest scientific articles and books, adding that it was even hard to find new Vietnamese journals.
"Students are at a big disadvantage because no one teaches them how to access the world's huge treasure of knowledge that is updated every day. Meanwhile, most of what they learn at school is dated back to 20-30 years ago," Hai said.
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