By Frederick Philander
Due to their inabilities to properly access information from libraries and the Internet, Namibians are still just as ignorant and illiterate as their grandparents in these modern times of information sharing.
This was a by-the-way observation the Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba, made yesterday when he officially launched a report on the status of Namibian libraries.
“There is no doubt in my mind that libraries form the backbone in the preparation of the next generation. There is no other way education will work unless we have libraries that can empower our children with relevant information from books and research documents,” said Mbumba.
In his view libraries are important in providing people with information for self-advancement, development and informed decision-making.
“It is my duty to ensure that the Library and Information Council promotes the development and use of library information resources as urgent and important. It is encouraging to have noticed that the council has been seriously engaged in addressing the serious situation of library and information services in the country,” he said.
The Library and Information Council did a four-year research study of basically all education institutions in the country before it came up with the report.
“I hope that these visits to all the regions have motivated principals, teachers, learners, librarians and regional leaders to improve the quality of services they render to our learners and communities through existing libraries. These visits have undoubtedly created expectations among the people. This report also speaks to the Government as the budget holder to allocate the necessary resources to ensure that the recommendations of the report come to life,” the minister said optimistically.
One of the strongest recommendations is that school management needs to take full responsibility of school libraries as part of overall school management planning.
“School principals should be required to account for library development at the institutions. Through training, such principals need to be encouraged to provide active support at school library activities and schools should be encouraged to raise funds for their own library facilities,” said council member, Pio Nganate, when motivating the recommendations to the minister.
The council also recommended that regional librarians take charge of rendering professional support and advice to eliminate heavy reliance on head office.
“Regional structures need to be reviewed and library assistants should be encouraged to enroll in professional courses to obtain suitable qualifications.
An orientation programme for school librarians needs to be developed.
Furthermore, a strategy should be formulated to technically supply libraries with computers and a system for promoting the use and control of library resources must be investigated,” he said.
According to Nganate critical consideration should be given to the suitability of locations when deciding on school library sites.
“Where feasible the merging of existing centres and community libraries needs to be considered. Isolated libraries should be serviced through outreach programmes. Such a strategy would save administrative costs and improve the quality of community services,” he concluded.