Libraries crucial to Namibian society

26 July 2019 | Education

A growing number of Namibians are turning to one of the country's 61 public libraries to nurture a love of reading and access a variety of free services.

In recognition of the importance of the role of libraries to a society the education ministry has underlined that although some libraries need renovations, tight budgets are putting a strain on these efforts.

“There is a need to upgrade libraries, as the usage of libraries has increased tremendously in the past years,” Absalom Absalom, the ministry's spokesperson, told Namibian Sun. He said more Namibians have become “aware that the services of the libraries are indeed free of charge, and it is only fair for the ministry to upgrade the facilities to ensure that library users have space to read, study or conduct research, as well as use the internet facilities.”

Absalom said despite the challenging financial constraints, libraries and the national archives remain a “top priority” for the ministry.

Currently, there are 61 public libraries in the country's 14 regions, while six are on the books, but not yet open.

The ministry this month announced that with N$18.5 million funding from the African Development Bank, renovations have started at the National Library and the National Archives of Namibia building in Windhoek.

A reading society

Absalom emphasised that a love of reading has far-reaching benefits and thus the ministry is aware that it is “very important to cultivate a reading culture for Namibia, not just for personal uses but for life-long learning.”

Reading is an active mental process which forces a person to use their brain, “thereby making citizens smarter.”

Reading helps the reader to develop skills such as locating, selecting, organising, evaluating and processing information, he added.

Of the many benefits of a “high reading culture” is the ability to retain knowledge.

“Research has shown that those who read solely for examinations lapse into illiteracy when they fail. Reading builds critical thinking and an innovative culture in citizens.”

A lack of a reading culture has far-reaching impacts including increasing the amount of time it takes to absorb information at the workplace, which can compromise performance and job security.

Absalom stressed that libraries play a crucial role in promoting reading by availing the books and other reading materials, as well as study spaces and access to the internet to ensure citizens are able to follow global events and access a wide arrange of information.

“Libraries are there to ensure inclusivity, those who cannot afford to buy books or have internet at home, will have access to all these at the libraries.”

JANA-MARI SMITH