After shutting down for five years due to vandalism and break-ins, the Hatfield library on Elgin Road finally re-opened in May.
Funding for repairs was provided by the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). Money is still being sought to carry out the extensive repairs needed to re-open the Greendale library branch which was closed at the end of 2014 due to a damaged roof.
Harare News spoke to librarian Tariro Dube from Harare City Library about the significance of the reopening of the Hatfield branch. Dube said “It is symbolic of a lost and found jewel for the Hatfield community as they are happily re-discovering the joy of reading because libraries are informative, educative and entertaining.”
Harare City Library, situated at the Civic Centre, runs five suburban libraries – Mabelreign, Mount Pleasant, Highlands, Hatfield, and Greendale. City of Harare is obliged to maintain the buildings of the suburban branches it owns while Harare City Library provides library services. Libraries in the high density suburbs are owned and run by the City of Harare and are independent of the Harare City Library Trust.
Harare City Council provides library services through branches in Mabvuku, Mbare, Waterfalls, Highfield, Glen Norah, Glen View, Mufakose, Kambuzuma and Dzivarasekwa. Due to economic hardships, Harare City Council has failed to maintain some of its branches. The Kuwadzana library building is unfinished and has no books; the Glen View Library has books but the roof is damaged and the library is not fully functional. The Glen Norah library is neglected and run-down.
Harare News spoke to City of Harare spokesman, Michael Chideme about the condition of some of the cities’ libraries. Chideme said “We are working to spruce up all our libraries through mobilising funds. We also appeal to organisations to continue donating reading materials for the libraries.”
Harare City Library main library also recently received a donation of books owned by the late Doris Lessing. Following her death in 2013, Lessing’s family agreed to donate most of her books to the Harare City Library. The collection has more than 3,500 books from her private collection as well as multiple copies of all the books she wrote. The books have been catalogued and the majority of the books are available for borrowing.
Harare News spoke to John Stewart, Chairman of the Management Committee of the Harare City Library, about the importance of the Doris Lessing collection and libraries in general. Stewart said “Libraries are a very important part of society. They are places of record where information and entertainment can be found, they are places of study and research. Libraries are also focal points for communities and are increasingly equipped to provide other services such as Internet. As Doris Lessing wrote, ‘…with a library, you are free… It is the most democratic of institutions because no one – but no one at all – can tell you what to read and when and how.’”
Children in grade seven and under can visit the Harare City Library for free. Secondary school pupils and adults pay a small fee for membership ranging from one day to one year. The library also offers other services like printing, scanning, photocopying, binding and laminating.
The library’s opening hours are 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday, Saturdays from 9am to 4pm. The Hatfield Branch Library opening hours are 10am to 6pm from Monday to Wednesday and on Friday. On Saturday the branch is open from 9am to 12:30pm. It is closed on Thursdays.
Image: The Glen View Library which has books but also a damaged roof.