By Brenda Asiimwe
LIBRARIES have been cited to have a potential to improve quality of life by providing access to information across a wide spectrum of development issues.
Geoffrey Kimani the director research and insights TSN RMS said this while presenting research findings about perceptions of Public Libraries in Uganda on Thursday at Imperial Royale.
He noted that availing information to people will reduce poverty and unemployment levels In Uganda.
The research which was funded by Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL’s) Public innovation program (PILP) will be used to form awareness and advocate for support needed to modernize public libraries.
“Stakeholders identified inadequate funding, limited space for user’s comfort and lack of technology as the challenges facing Public libraries.” Kimani revealed.
He added that the need to access information is wide spread which calls for the government to invest in constructing more public libraries with update reading material and ICT services.
The research also showed that 64% of library users in Uganda are men compared to the 36% of women. It also revealed that 75% of the library users have completed secondary school and some post secondary level meaning that libraries don’t provide for the illiterate.
Kimani observed that the need for information cuts across both the educated and uneducated which calls for public libraries to diversify their services to cater for the entire population.
Gertrude Kayaga Mulindwa the director of the National library of Uganda expressed concern over the low interest Ugandans have in Public libraries.
“People should know that libraries are a necessity and take the initiative to start up community libraries to access information on various developmental issues such as health and employment.” She noted
Kayaga said that there are only 26 public and 80 community libraries to serve the vast population of Uganda. She appealed to the government ministries to realize the importance of libraries in promoting their programs and make it a priority when making their budgets.
She added that the National Library Uganda will pilot a youth enterprise program where they will teach all the unemployed youth ICT skills to increase their employability. We will start with Lira and Masindi libraries and the National Youth Council (NYC), Kayaga said.
Monica Elbert the senior policy advisor EIFL said the organisation is working with a consortium of universities in Uganda to ensure that universities have the most up to date electronic resources to help students in doing research.
“We are advocating for the open access to knowledge for universities so that they don’t have to pay for information from government funded researches.” Elbert said. “We are also negotiating with publishers to avail information at a low cost or no cost at all to universities.”
Libraries foster development