Expanding the Role of Libraries in Zimbabwe


 

Three librarians from Zimbabwe made a study visit recently to the Raoul Wallenberg Institute as part of the Institute’s Zimbabwe Human Rights Capacity Development Programme 2016-2018.

“The overall aim of the study visit and training was to show and share good practices in how we are running Libraries in Sweden and collect tips and experience in the hard business of negotiations with vendors of electronic materials,” says Karl Adam Tiderman, RWI’s librarian.

The librarians came from Great Zimbabwe University, Midlands State University and Africa University. They visited among others, the Lund University Library, the Lund University Faculty of Law Library, Malmö University Library and the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Library.

 

Zimbabwean librarians’ reflections and takeways from study visit

 

zimbabwe1Claudious Chuma, a Law Librarian at Midlands State University, Gweru, was impressed with how Swedish libraries act like community centres where visitors are encouraged to congregate and do things, such as eating, which would never be allowed in Zimbabwe. He says his library is constantly dealing with trying to overcome challenges caused by lack of resources. “When it comes time for exams, students are scrambling for space and material,” he says. Chuma says he has plans to build a new library on campus and that they are looking for funding now. “It’s extremely important to have adequate information about human rights to assist the students so they know the issues and also get to know about the Zimbabwean constitution,” he says.

 

zimbabwe2Oscar Mafuta, a Law Librarian at Herbert Chitepo School of Law, Great Zimbabwe University, says the study visit has made it clear to him that Sweden takes libraries, including access to information, seriously. “We have a lot to learn here,” he says. “We are getting to see how the libraries work. It’s an eye-opener, and I hope to take back a lot of the ideas and model some of them.”

Mafuta says the internet connection at his university is so poor that they still face constant problems with students getting knocked off the web. He would like to see the library expand its print and online resources.

 

zimbabwe3Brian Kutiwa, Client Services Librarian at Africa University, says one thing that surprised him about the visit to Sweden was that parents take their children to libraries. “We have public libraries, but it’s very uncommon to see children and parents in them,” he says.

Kutiwa says he became a librarian to serve the community. “People need to have access to information to develop,” he says. “That’s a challenge today to people on the streets. But libraries can help them know their rights.”

Kutiwa hopes to continue the cooperation with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute and take back the knowledge and insights gained in Sweden and try to apply it to the local context.

“We have many challenges, but making more information available to visitors is important,” he says.