Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Kisumu Deserves an Enhanced Library.

I have been a registered member of the Kenya National Library Services here in Kisumu for three years.

I have been exposed to the following for three years.

And I am disgruntled.
In all honesty, I am pissed off and ashamed at the Management of the library for not improving the services or fixing the shelves to better accommodate the books.
I am also ashamed that the lighting and wiring is so poor, that you cannot help but consider your health as you think of studying in the library.

Kisumu as of 2009, had a population of  409,908 and given the rate of mortality and child-birth and desire to invest, this number has increased by now.

Yet, there's only one national library and it can accommodate a maximum number of 100 people.

At the beginning of last year, the library stocked at least 80 new books- both fiction of Western and African influence and I would commend them on that- but having read all of them, It's safe to say that it was a short term investment and as such...I'm not happy with the services.

I have written countless times to them and made suggestions- but every time I get the nonchalant response that "it's up to management you know."
No, I don't know!

But, first let me give credit where it's due and commend them on three areas:
  1. Good catalog system. The library is using the AmLib 5.2 program, which makes it easier to check in and out books.
  2. Cleanliness. Though small, the library is always clean, and that's a plus.
  3. They have tissue in the washrooms.

But there's a lot more to be looked into- if you visit the National website www.knls.ac.ke you will be treated to galleries and news reviews of libraries across the country. There's the library at BuruBuru in Nairobi, the one in UpperHill is still under construction same to the one in Nakuru, but the recent one that was opened is the Narok library.

They are beautiful, well lit, spacious, have good shelves, variety of books with well-labeled sections, and most of all they have ICT services.

You will not experience this at the Kisumu library.

See, a library is the one place where knowledge is free, and you have the right to get lost and feel overwhelmed by the amount of information you can amass. Given how cramped the library in Kisumu is, you are not privy to this. During the holidays, you will find yourself jumping across feet, or bumping into people as you try and make your way around to at least borrow a book to tickle your fancy.

People are welcome to the floor because there are no seats.

If you are a member, you can borrow only 2 books to read within a span of two weeks! Cognitively speaking- this is an insult to the mental capacity of a literate person. A book has at most 120,000 words. Your average person can read 200 words per minute on paper, 180 on a monitor or e-reader.

So- let's say you borrow 2 books @120,000 words each.

That's 240,000 words to read. Divide this by 200. You get 1,200 minutes. This translates to 20 hours- and that's 4 hours short of a day!

I have taken the liberty to read the KNLS Strategic Plan 2012-2017 and their second strategic objective is "To increase access to information through development, equipping  and maintenance of libraries."

In Kisumu- they have failed, and they continue to fail.

I also find it quite extra-ordinary that a city that prides itself in having the most educated and well trained professionals has not considered upgrading the library- the one resource center that would enhance literacy- because this is not part of the vision the Kisumu County Government has in mind. It has considered providing children with e-readers, but this is not in line or in any way involving the National Library.

I do hope that this would be considered- because another library would be a much better resource and competition to what exists right now. But that aside, I'd recommend:

  • Renovation. A well detailed paint job would do the library some good.
  • Better shelves and well-labeled sections that would make it easier for readers to access the books they need.
  • Proper lighting and space between the shelves.
  • Books, books and books. Get new books. Fiction is evolving and dynamic, we have so many works that have not yet been discovered by readers, add more books to the shelves.
  • Reference material. We need more than 50 dictionaries in the library- and kindly bind the old Webster Dictionary that's missing the pages!
  • More seats. The floor is not a great place to sit when the library is full.
  • ICT services. Have access to open journals to enhance research and critical thinking skills in readers.
  • Make it at least 4 books to be checked out in 2 weeks.
  • Motivate your staff. They always look depressed at work.
  • Add extra shelves where readers can leave their bags.
  • Have an oral reading section for children. I'd volunteer to read to children if you cannot afford to pay someone to do so.
  • Have a sign that lets people know the rules of the library- like no answering calls in the library.
  • Have extra washrooms, hand-washing gel or soap, and running water always.
  • You have green grounds- pitch tents there- and have a reading section out in the sun that's monitored by two librarians.

Kisumu deserves an enhanced library.

If you are reading this, help me bring about some change- share this on all social media sites, tell a friend to tell a friend and let's see this come to pass.

How can one change the world if one identifies oneself with everybody?

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