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New Research Shows Libraries in Africa Are "Essential," Yet Underutilized Resources for Technology and Community Development Services
Source: allAfrica.com
Source Date: Thursday, November 10, 2011
Focus: Knowledge Management in Government
Country: Tanzania
Created: Nov 10, 2011

The six-country study found a significant majority of all respondents (80%) believe the biggest benefit that public libraries offer is the opportunity to learn and to develop new skills. A growing number of people view libraries as a source for national and local news and information on important topics including agriculture, health and employment. Public library users and government officials view libraries as "essential to them personally and to the greater community."

"Everyone agrees that public libraries are essential. But more awareness and support is needed for library services that go beyond providing books and places for study," said Monika Elbert, senior policy advisor at EIFL and lead on the research project. "Access to knowledge is critical for development and public libraries are uniquely positioned to provide ICT-enabled information services that will contribute to countries' medium and long-term development plans. Libraries are a hub where, for example, at-risk youth can access computers and learn new technology skills for the 21st century, unemployed people can learn job-seeking skills and farmers can find valuable information about new farming methods-all of which are key strands of community development."

In addition to raising awareness of the information services libraries provide, the research shows that there is a strong demand for more technology resources. Among library users, only 14 percent report using computers or the Internet at public libraries. A lack of computers is one of the primary reasons library users (37%) and the local authorities that operate libraries (53%) report being dissatisfied with library services. Non-users say they would be motivated to use libraries if more access to online content was available (29%) or if there were more computers in general (24%). A significant majority of librarians (72%) would like to see more funding invested in technologies to meet community needs.

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