Libraries and National Development
By Patrick Achitabwino
Information and a conducive environment of its free flow is a vital tool in all forms of human endeavor. It is the link pin of national development. For a nation to develop it needs to have and provide relevant, updated and adequate information on food security, health, democracy, population, education, family planning, youth empowerment, gender equality, environment etc. Libraries are there for proper management, provision and dissemination of such information.
Paul Tiyambe Zeleza in the article The dynamics of book and library development in Anglophone Africa emphasised that books and libraries form crucial repositories of knowledge and information accumulated over time, so that to have access to them is to enter an ongoing intellectual conversation within and between societies and generations, and partake in the immense heritage of human social thought.
Information is power and power belongs to the people. Information is a vehicle that drives people to a better understanding that in turn induces sound judgments and decision-making.
It is irrefutable fact that libraries are a pivotal point in democracy promotion and socio-economic development in a country. Dickson Vuwa Phiri argues that for democratic processes to make sense, those that govern must be aware of the needs of those that are governed, whatever or wherever they are. To articulate such awareness, politicians and electorates must be provided with information relating to democracy, human rights and, the rule of law.
Nancy Kranich agrees when she said that libraries are the corner stone of democracy in our communities because they assist the public in locating a diversity of resources and in developing the information literacy skills necessary to become responsible, informed citizens who can participate in our democracy.
Even president Franklin Roosevelt during the Second World War when the future of democracy was much in question told the nation that libraries are essential to the functioning of a democratic society-Libraries are the greatest symbols of the freedom of the mind.
Information promotes and empowers citizens’ participation in the democratic process; it maintains the rule of law and creates a viable outlet for the injection of public opinion. Information informs the policy-making process of political leadership, all of which nurtures the building of sustainable peace for the enhancement of the state.
Libraries play a vital role in the health sector. A vibrant health sector needs a well-documented and organised health information meant for dissemination to users and potential users in order to consolidate health records, planning and management. Libraries provide people with appropriate information on diseases and prevention measures, health care, side effects of premarital affairs, dangers of early pregnancies and any other health related information.
According to S. Mapasure of Standards Association of Zimbabwe, in Zimbabwe were introduced Drug Information Centers and National Diabetes Information Clearing House that in the end minimized the misconceptions people had on drugs and diabetes. With the HIV/AIDS pandemic retarding socio-economic developments in our nation, measures to avoid the scourge and the enhancement of behavior change can yield a positive impact if information on such issues was accessible to rural masses through rural libraries.
It goes without saying that rapid population increase impedes development. Libraries face the challenging task of being reliable reservoirs of information pertaining to problems associated with population increases. Land degradation, food shortages, deforestation, drying rivers, drought, urban migration, unemployment, rising prices, increasing poverty and diseases are all side effects of rapid population growth. As long as people are informed of such pertinent issues through their local...
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