50-year old Harare City Library (HCL) is taking a leap into the modern world with its plans to digitalise. The Library is currently renovating its facilities to make room for a computer centre, which will see members accessing information from the Internet and eBooks.
The digitalisation comes as part of a million dollar renovation boost received from the Embassy of Sweden. His Excellency the Ambassador of Sweden Lars Ronnås applauds Harare for its rich cultural diversity: “Harare is in many ways a city of culture. It prides itself in cultural festivals, fine art galleries and theatre among other cultural activities. Such a city certainly deserves a town library it can take pride in; a library which demonstrates the ambitions of this city, and what it would like to be associated with, that is to cater for its residents’ wish to seek knowledge, to learn and to be inspired by literature,” he said.
Ambassador Ronnås also emphasised the need to digitalise: “We think of a library as a place with shelves upon shelves filled with books, and so it should be. However a library which aims to offer information and knowledge cannot confine itself to one kind of media. Today literature is not only presented in the form of printed books. A good book could be found on your screen, in this way a library must make use of the tools that can open the curious reader to the ocean of knowledge. It must respond to modern technology.”
HCL and its satellite libraries have, for a long time, been operating with only traditional hardcopy text as a source of information.
It is hoped that with digitalisation, more visitors will be motivated to use the library, whose membership has been decreasing year on year.
Patrons will now be able to electronically access information moments after publication. Hard copies can take weeks or even months to reach this part of the world.
Speaking at the commissioning of the renovation project, HCL Committee Chairperson Mike Curling said Rio Duoro contractors have been commissioned to renovate the library. “The renovation of the building will make it leak proof; the interior will be painted, new flooring installed, its electrical systems reconditioned, and the toilets brought up to standard. Installation of a computer network, furniture and most importantly stocking of new books will be completed by year end,” said Curling.
The library will also have broadband installed, which makes the digitalisation of library records possible and will enable electronic reference material.
The building, which was awarded a bronze medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1962 for its outstanding architectural design, has increasingly fallen into disrepair over the years, with paint wearing off and the roof leaking.
Deputy Minister of Education, Sports, Art and Culture, Honourable Lazarus Dokora said it is vital that the library is made accessible.
“Libraries are public spaces, so we must make sure that the threshold of entry is as low as possible, otherwise we will have a beautiful building, well-stocked but failing to serve its purpose.”
Dokora also suggested that library and school officials should collaborate. He put forward the idea that the library fee be included in tuition costs and then forwarded onto the library from the institution. This would mean that students do not have to think about the payment everytime they want to study at the library.
He believes that this would help students who are affected by ‘hot-seating’ in their respective schools while ensuring the library is fully subscribed everyday of the week.
Councillor Gift Raudy Mabhaudhi Jnr, representing the Mayor at the launch event, also advocated for a facility friendly to people with disability. “I would like to see this library accessible to people with disabilities. They also need to know what’s going on and to get information,” he said.
He urged officials to extend the renovation exercise to other satellite libraries around Harare, especially those in high density areas where there is a real need for books and sharing of information.