To culminate the end of a four-year program cycle, I had the opportunity to visit and assess each of our five university partner libraries in Zimbabwe. The primary focus of this assessment was to identify the unique needs and challenges of each library and, within that context, evaluate the efficacy of RWI’s support. The literature support and librarian training of university law libraries provided by RWI is a key component in building the capacity of human rights education programs in higher education. Students and Faculty with access to up-to-date resources can contribute to building the capacity of educational programs, participate in global research ecosystem, and provide effective legal educational programs such as legal clinics and moot courts. Relevant and timely literature also contributes to informed decision making for policymakers and officials in the justice system as research produced via universities directly informs policies, legal decisions, and strategies.
My visit involved a series of meetings with each University librarian and their teams across Zimbabwe. The librarians I met provided valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities within their respective institutions. From Africa University in Mutare to Midlands State University in Gweru, the discussions were comprehensive and enlightening. The assessment covered various facets, including the condition of physical books, ebook accessibility, and the feasibility of each for each library. Additionally, common hindrances and opportunities were identified, user training efficacy was discussed, and future training needs were determined.
Meetings with librarians at Africa University, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University, Great Zimbabwe university, and Midlands State University yielded several conclusions and observations. Overall, libraries met partnership goals and maintained access to physical and ebook collections effectively. The preference for ebooks and physical books varied among universities, with factors like reliability of electricity and expensive data being detractors to the use of ebooks. Multiple institutions emphasized the need for devices, such as tablets, for to circumvent these issues. Training for ebook usage was also deemed critical for their use, with the University of Zimbabwe indicating the positive impact of such user training initiatives.
Based on feedback, several future training opportunities were identified, including implementing data-driven decision-making, academic library self-assessment, collection development, and methods of effectively using open source and human rights databases. High turnover for library staff not in managerial roles was also a common challenge, which creates a need for introductory training for new staff. This could be addressed through MOOC courses offered by RWI on our platform.
As this current program cycle concludes, the collaborative efforts between RWI and partner libraries in Zimbabwe paint a promising picture for the future. By addressing challenges, leveraging training opportunities, and tailoring literature support to individual library needs, we can look forward another to another program cycle of strengthening our partner libraries capacity to provide Human Rights resources at the highest level to their users.