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NLS building digital library to improve book access, promote reading culture

State-financed National Library Service (NLS) has disclosed that it is in the process of building a digital library to address challenges researchers and learners face to access books in their various fields.

NLS Acting Chief Librarian Officer, Bonney Sangole, speaking at Kalambo Full Primary School Ground during the ‘Reading Promotion Event’ on Friday, said a digital library would also play a crucial role in promoting reading culture among both learners and adults.

Sangole highlighted inadequate financial and material resources as one of the challenges frustrating their efforts to promote reading culture in Malawi.

“Currently, we are operating in 13 districts only where we have 16 libraries only. This is not an ideal situation if we are to promote reading culture in Malawi,” she lamented.

Learners carrying a placard with messages on the importance of reading

She was, however, quick to mention that NLS is working with the government and various partners, including Book Aid International, USAID, DVV International and eKitabu, among others, to expand its horizon to the remaining 15 districts.

The Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Education responsible for Basic Education, Rachel Chimbwete Phiri, has admitted that more needs to be done to promote the reading culture in the country.

“We really admit that there is a lot to be done. But we hope that with more conversation with libraries and partners, we can bang our heads and come together and see how best we can resolve this issue. Otherwise it is a challenge, not just to the ministry, but the libraries also,” she said.

PS Rachel Chmbwete Phiri inspecting a pavillion mounted at Kalambo Full Primary School Ground

Chimbwete Phiri said it was disheartening to learn that districts as large as Lilongwe should have only one library located at the City Centre thereby denying thousands of rural-based Malawians access to the facility.

“There are many communities that we need to reach out to. So, mobile vans are one example where we have mobile libraries that communities can access. So, it’s something that is triggering resource mobilization and it has to be looked into account and expand libraries in Malawi,” she said.

Turning to the importance of the ‘Reading Promotion Event’, the PS said the campaign challenges duty-bearers to identify ways on how they can promote reading among learners, with a focus on foundational years.

She said it is through reading where students can be exposed to a wide range of things, including knowledge and imagination that can drive them into worlds of possibilities.

“There is a need for people to be exposed to reading beyond classroom materials, beyond their curriculum. So, we want learners to be reading beyond that. So, this event is very important just to remind everyone as a campaign, not just learners, but also teachers to promote reading among learners,” she said.

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