K. D. Jager
Jun 1, 2002
The synthesis of literature quoted in the bibliography and the country reports portrays the public library movement in Africa as being very weak, with numerous problems regarding financial constraints, lack of human resources, outdated materials and poor use. The only sector of the African population that uses public libraries is school children. However, each country report illustrated that children do not use the materials held in the library but use libraries primarily as places for study, because they are quieter and more spacious than their homes. The consensus of opinion seems to be that African librarians need to rethink what a public library is all about, in terms of what is needed, what will be used, and what is sustainable in Africa. Perhaps some new and more viable visions will result. In particular, public libraries in Africa need to start to be more aggressive and introduce services that are attractive to the users. Librarians must begin to know their potential users, and not only assume that they are school children. More dynamism and more involvement of the user community, extended to all users – school children, adults, literates, non-literates and neo-literates – are required for the improvement of public library services. The introduction of alternative services, like community information centres, is welcomed, but there is a need to balance the services offered in urban and rural areas. The promotion of the services through the media, for example, is required. The public library systems must be known by everybody in society. Long-term realistic strategic plans are required for public library development. These should be prepared on a country basis and should be founded on professionally carried-out userneeds and user-satisfaction surveys, together with stakeholder research – for example, what the government wants and expects from a public library system (if indeed it wants one at all), and how much it will pay for such system; or what the private sector thinks is the value of the public library service.