There is need to share Library Resources in Kenya Universities

There is need to share Library Resources in Kenya Universities


By Maurice N. Amutabi


The library is the nerve centre of any learning institution. The way a library is stocked and manned can reveal the commitment of an institution to learning. A neglected and bad library is a clear indication that the institution does not value learning and research. This is the place that students are supposed to spend most of their life on campus and need to be comfortable and accommodating. In Kenya, many university and college libraries are in need of urgent attention because many are mere reading rooms and not libraries, because they do not have enough books.


Libraries in many Kenyan universities are wanting in many ways, largely due to inadequate allocations in the running budgets. Many university budgets do not rate library budgets high, unlike many universities in other parts of the world where libraries are used to showcase university resources. Many budgets of university libraries in Kenya are tiny compared to the North. Majority are allocated less than 10% percent of the total university budget. Private universities spend more on libraries compared to public ones. The recommended allocation of library expenditure is 10 percent of the total university budget, which very few meet.


Many university libraries in Kenya are full of empty shelves and dusty floors and rugged seats. Many are at different levels of dilapidation. Some Kenyan libraries still use the old fashioned card and paper catalogues yet libraries elsewhere have digitised catalogues. Some do not have enough space and readers are often crammed into tiny spaces.


Many universities and colleges in Kenya lack adequate learning resources, in the library. They have no access to internet, and catalogues are not on any kind of intranet – connected to each other. One computer terminal may show that an item is available only for another system to show that it is already borrowed out. If one wants to photocopy a document, the process is so long that it will be a better idea to order the book from elsewhere than attempting to photocopy. It is even worse if the book you would like to photocopy is a reference text.


Some of the libraries have large and impressive buildings without adequate books, journals, CD-ROMs and internet resources. University libraries lack current books and many of them have books which rather dated, already been superseded by more recent editions.


The problem is that Kenyan universities do not have interlibrary loan facilities where a student, say at the University of Nairobi can borrow a book at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa for say two weeks. In many countries, universities pull their resources together and students can access books available in other libraries. This way, they allow students to access books which are not in their collection.


Another problem is that many libraries in Kenyan universities serve members of the core university community only (staff and students), with several demanding some form of internal ID for entry. This is not only negative but also against the practice everywhere in the world where libraries, especially in public universities, should serve tax payers. There is a way the library can establish a mechanism of admitting genuine users from loafers or idlers.  It is not hard to identity a loafer in a library, and who are likely to steal from library users, and throw them out, but this should not be a reason to lock out genuine users.


Many Kenyan universities are busy talking about creating global networks with universities elsewhere and yet they are not able to create local networks. If students from one university in Kenya cannot access books and journals at another university, what kind of networks are we talking about, yet this is supposed to be the most basic? Kenyan university libraries should create some network in which they can share books and journals. They can save a lot of money by subscribing to online journal compendiums such as JSTOR, jointly, and sharing the password among their member libraries. It will make a lot of economic sense in terms of economies of scale if they shared books and subscribed to online resources jointly.


Prof. Amutabi teaches Social Sciences at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. 


About African Interdisciplinary Studies Association Website

Prof. Maurice Nyamanga Amutabi is President of African Interdisciplinary Studies Association (AISA), a pioneer professional associaiton bringing together members from all disciplines in Africa and abroad. He is a former Fulbright Scholar who previously worked as Deputy Vice Chancellor at Kisii University and also Director of Research and Professor in Peace and Strategic Studies at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), 2010-2013. He has previously taught at Central Washington University, USA (2005-2010) in African Studies Programme and Moi University (1992-2000) in the Department of Development Studies and other public universities in Kenya. Prof. Amutabi holds a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA in History and African Studies. He received his B.A (Hons) in 1989 in Political Science and History and M.A in 1991 from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Maurice Amutabi is co-editor of Regime Change and Succession Politics in Africa: Five Decades of Misrule (with Shadrack Wanjala Nasong’o) – in 2013. Amutabi also co-edited Africa after Fifty Years: Retrospections and Reflections (with Toyin Falola and Sylvester Gundona) in 2012. Amutabi is the author of The NGO Factor in Africa: The Case of Arrested Development in Kenya (New York: Routledge, 2006). Amutabi is co-author of Nationalism and Democracy for People-Centered Development in Africa (Moi University Press, 2000). He has also co-authored Foundations of Adult Education in Africa (Cape Town/Hamburg: Pearson/UNESCO, 2005). He has written two novels, Because of Honor (a novel on Islam in Africa) and These Good People (a novel on corruption in Africa). Amutabi is also the author of Nakhamuma Stories (a collection of short stories from the Abaluyia community of western Kenya). His chapters have appeared in over thirty books. His articles have appeared in several refereed and reputable journals such as African Studies Review, African Contemporary Cultural Studies, Canadian Journal of African Studies, International Journal of Educational Development; and Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. Amutabi has made presentations at over one hundred national and international conferences. Amutabi is the Vice-President of the Kenya Studies and Scholars’ Association (KESSA), Kenya’s premier research and academic organization. He is the editor-in-chief of Kenya Studies Review and Eastern Africa Journal of Humanities and Sciences. Prof. Amutabi has conducted extensive research on many issues of development. He has taught courses on peace and conflict and gender and development. He teaches in the PhD and Masters Programme in the Institute of Peace and Security Studies at Kisii University. He enjoys blogging and writing and is an avid sports fan, but does not support any of team, preferring to support the team that plays well.
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