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Kenyans shun libraries over archaic technology

MAKAU MUTUA
By | November 9th 2011

By Peter Orengo

Lack of modern technology has been cited as the reason fewer Kenyans make use of public libraries.

A research on public perception of libraries shows awareness is high but many consider them archaic and lacking in modern techonology.

It found out a significant majority of respondents (80 per cent) believe the biggest benefit public libraries offer is the opportunity to learn and to develop new skills for students.

"When asked about awareness of a public library in their area, about half (52 per cent) of library non users in Kenya are aware of the presence of the facilities in their localities," said Richard Atuti, Director of the Kenya National Library Service, a corporation under the Ministry of State for National Heritage and Culture.

Fast information

He said Kenyan libraries are under-funded, making it impossible to give Kenyan access to information fast enough.

More than 77 per cent of non-users mentioned being busy as a hindrance to using libraries. When asked to rank these barriers, 45 per cent claim being too busy is the number one reason why they aren’t visiting libraries and 12 per cent claim lack of knowledge about the services rendered is the number one reason.

In Nyeri, however, the proportion of non-users who know there is a library in their locality is at 84 per cent.

Despite presence of more libraries in Nairobi, only 32 per cent of non-users are aware.

The study was commissioned by Eifl-(Electronic Information for Libraries) to collect information on the perceptions on public libraries in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

"In Kenya, those who visit public libraries seek information on issues, including health (18 per cent), running a business (15 per cent) and employment (14 per cent). This growth is attributed to innovative programmes implemented at the country level," said Mr Atuti.

Digital divide

According to findings of the study, there is recognition among local and national Government officials in Kenya, and across the continent, of the potential contribution libraries can make in education, economic development, employment, health, agriculture and closing the digital divide.

"Sustainability of library services and funding is needed and should be enhanced to make sure libraries meet existing community needs today and into the future," said Silas Kobia, Kenya National Library Services board chairman.

He addede community leaders, decision makers and other library stakeholders should provide policy and financial support to libraries.

 

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