PHOTO BY TOGARA M
The four day Library Policy Standardisation workshop saw all academic librarians in the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development (MHTESTD) gather at Hotel Redcliff to work on transforming academic libraries in line with education 5.0. The workshop which started on the 1st and ended on the 4th of April was comprised of thirteen (13) Teachers Colleges, eight (8) Polytechnics and five (5) Industrial Training Colleges. A delegate at the workshop felt that the inaugural workshop hosted by the ministry may be one of many and may be viewed as the ‘Redcliff Declaration’. A number of representatives of the Zimbabwe Library Association (ZimLA) and the College and Research Library Consortium (CARLC) also took part in the exercise. The facilitators were drawn from universities, colleges and information related organisations all noted that CARLC should be revived and made active. The workshop offered a glimpse into the future of librarianship in higher education in Zimbabwe. Libraries have always been focused on the development of communities and the prevailing perception of libraries in Zimbabwe has done little to shine the light on libraries for development. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) set a road map for libraries to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The workshop showed that academic libraries in Zimbabwe need to practice 21st century librarianship in order to deliver the best results.
In a speech read on his behalf to mark the official opening of the workshop, the Permanent Secretary in Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Prof. Tagwira said that, “…it is important to examine the importance of resource sharing and networking across all our libraries to enable effective response to the varied needs of users or clientele with quality services”. He added that the management of information has long been a domain of librarians and libraries. The Principal for Mkoba Teachers College, Dr Dube noted how librarians tend to play a very low profile and yet these should be the active advocates in the system as they also run courses on information literacy. This follows similar observations made by the Honourable Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Professor Amon Murwira who called for the transformation of the education system to promote both the industrialisation and modernisation of the country. Professor Murwira said Government was moving towards education 5.0 aimed at producing industrialists. In an article entitled ‘Government to dump colonial education system’ published by the Herald on the 28th of March 2019, Professor Murwira said that, “Without a good library we cannot win, academic libraries need to provide products that stimulate and nurture futuristic innovations, knowledge generation and transfer.”
In a related development, the Chairperson of Zimbabwe University Libraries Consortium (ZULC), Ms Patience Chibanda called upon fellow librarians in universities and colleges to move away from the idea of academic libraries building up books stock to fill up dusty shelves at a recent Zimbabwe University Library Conference (ZULC) 4th Biennial Conference. She challenged librarians to begin transforming the library into a dynamic learning space that would empower users with access to information at any time and place. CARLC Chairperson, Mr Makowe, at the strategic workshop noted that there was a lot of work to be done and each step made towards library development would count. The President of the Zimbabwe Library Association, Shadreck Ndidnde was pleased to learn that the workshop also looked at library cooperation and resource sharing in the digital world. “The motto of the national association is, ‘Promoting Library Development’. The role of the National Library Association and CARLC are essential towards supporting governments thrust towards developing industrialists who will drive the nation towards a modernised Zimbabwe vision 2030, the African Union Agenda 2063, the IFLA Libraries Development and the United Nations 2030 Agenda” he said.
The academic Library plays a number of roles, namely; informational, the provision of a quiet, safe, social space, studying, support services and other roles realised through disruptive technologies. The academic library may make reading materials accessible to users who want to learn more about the Geospatial, Aeronautical and Space Science Capability Programme; Adoption and development of Life Technologies programme; High Performance Computing Programme (HPC); Science and Technology SPV Programmes and the purpose of Science Parks/ Innovation Hubs and Industrial Parks. The academic library may also support the government in the fight against fake news and will remain the nerve centre of the academic institution. A panel discussion on strengthening Modern Library operations to Support Heritage based Education 5.0 looked at several transformations in the operation and management of academic libraries. The debate also centred on the support of the IT Department, Human Resource and the Administration Department. The library did not operate in isolation and achieved most of its functions through teamwork and sound cooperation. There were mixed feelings with the lack of a dedicated IT library technician with calls for training librarians and an increase in access of ICTs to the library staff. This echoes sentiments made by Harold George Howe a professional footballer from Hertfordshire, England who said that, “what a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education” The library user would read materials in the library and access to services through ICTs if they wished to learn more online. The creation of virtual libraries was necessary and the need to expose students to new technologies and ICTs was another role played by the library.
A Technical Library Committee was nominated to spearhead the second round of debates on the policies and standards to be adopted by tertiary institutions. Librarians will be engaged in consultative meetings in three regions to discuss on areas for development in the final policy draft documents. Librarians will focus on the Library Use, Circulation, ICT, Community Service, Collection Development Management and User education policy documents. A standard for academic libraries will also be debated and all drafts tabled for review. A representative of the ministry noted that academic libraries in higher education both government and private need to work hand-in-hand towards transforming the way the library works. This would see the practices of 21st century librarianship in higher education in line with global best practices. “Ultimately, modernised Libraries must be able to catalyse the Vision of the Ministry which is to deliver a competitive, modernised and industrialised Zimbabwe through higher and tertiary education, science and technology development” said Prof. Tagwira.
One delegate quoted Shelby Foote (1993) who stated that, a “University is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. The library is the university”. Hence, there is a need for the nation to push for the development of all libraries which play a critical role in the development of a country.