Monday, December 30, 2013

Kitwe Public Library in Zambia

The Kitwe Public Library (KPL) started operations in the early 1960s. It is
Kitwe Public Library main entrance
located at the City Square in a building that was constructed in 1954. The building originally served as the Civic Centre and later as a Whites’ only library before becoming a public library. The library falls under the Department of Housing and Social Services of the Kitwe City Council.

Library membership is open to the public. However, adults pay five Kwacha (about US$0.90) per month to use the library while junior membership fee is fixed at three Kwacha (about US$0.54) per month. The library has a seating capacity of about 85 in addition to 50 at its Buchi Township branch library. This capacity is not adequate for a city with a population of about 520,000 inhabitants (based on 2010 Population Census).
Reading room
KPL has about 14,000 volumes covering textbooks, reference materials and children’s books. However, most of the collection is obsolete. The library was once an Environmental Public Information Centres (EPIC) and served as a public disclosure and reference centre for research and other educational and academic purposes supporting the World Bank funded Copperbelt Environment Project (CEP). Kitwe, founded in 1936, is the hub of the Copperbelt Province in which the copper mining industry dominates. Environmental problems associated with the mining industry are a major issue. CEP addressed environmental liabilities associated with the mining sector. CEP closed in 2011.

ICT in the library

Library card catalogue
Like most public libraries in sub-Saharan Africa, Kitwe Public Library is yet to embrace fully modern information and communication technologies (ICT). When you walk into the library, you will see that there are no signs of any use of computers for public library services such as library loans/circulation or Open Access Public Catalogue (OPAC). The old library card catalogue still lives on.

Although efforts are being made to use computers in the library, they seem inadequate. During the Copperbelt Environment Project the World Bank donated four computers to the library. Today, only two standalone computers are operational and are being used for office work. In 2011, the Kitwe City Council purchased a computer server for the library and Koha, an open source library automation system, was installed. After about one year of operation, the library experienced problems with the server and since then the system has been down.

The library is not connected to the Internet. It therefore lacks access to digital information resources including thousands of peer reviewed electronic journals and books available online for free or at reduced cost to public institutions in most developing countries.

Plans are on paper to connect the library to the Internet. However, it is not clear as to when this will happen. A room with computer network cables and extra-power points is being prepared to serve as an Internet access centre. Let us hope that soon, the Kitwe Public Library will be connected to global knowledge through the Internet.

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