- Non-governmental Foundation behind the modern educational facility.
- Thousands are set to benefit from the charity.
- CS Ababu Namwamba among guests during the launch.
- Improvements expected, with online service being a priority.
A library is “any organized collection of printed books and periodical or any other graphic or audio-visual materials with a staff to provide and facilitate the use of such materials as are required to meet the information research, educational and recreational needs of users.”
That is according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Kenya National Library Service (KNLS), the governmental corporation which manages all public libraries in Kenya, notes that thirst for knowledge “requires availability and accessibility of relevant and timely information to those who may require it, wherever they may be located.”
Kenya has 64 public libraries run by KNLS, and all are meant to satisfy the quest for knowledge.
According to the KNLS website, their services include providing welcoming reading facilities for the public, whether children or adults, through “…refurbishment and construction of modern libraries across the country.”
They also lend books and other publications to registered members of the public and learning institutions.
Surprisingly, Busia county has been without this key reading facility for time immemorial.
One in Bunyala
The lack of a library posed a challenge to scores of book lovers, especially students from primary, secondary, and technical training institutions in Bunyala sub-county, Budalangi constituency.
They missed the essential services available at a public library.
However, they now have every reason to wear a broad smile following the launch of the first-ever modern public library in the sub-county.
The public library is adjacent to the Bunyala sub-county headquarters, the most central place surrounded by several learning institutions.
The reading facility is courtesy of the Teresa Oyiolo Foundation, a non-governmental organization, to the tune of KSh10 million.
The amount had been used to acquire assorted reading materials, make bookshelves, and install tapped water and solar-powered lights, among others.
Speaking during the official opening of the public library recently, the Kenya National Library Service CEO, Dr. Charles Nzivo, lauded the non-governmental organization headed by Ronald Ondiege for taking the initiative to invest a colossal amount of money in facilitating the establishment of the library.
He emphasized that it would go a long way in promoting a reading culture in society, especially for learners from the area.
Dr. Nzivo announced the government’s ambitious plans to launch an online library in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Affairs, Sports and Arts.
The KNLS official expressed concern that Busia has been among the 14 counties that do not have a public library, adding that KNLS will join the sponsors to improve the newly established Teresa Oyiolo public library for the benefit of the residents of Budalangi and Busia county at large.
Youth Affairs, Sports and Arts Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba, who had also attended the occasion, said the public library will benefit the students from Budalangi who had been locked out of this key reading facility.
Namwamba said the new public library will be improved in line with the aims and objectives of the proposed online library.
The establishment of the new public library in Budalangi was commended by area MP Raphael Wanjala who said the reading facility would serve the interest of students in Bunyala sub-county and provide employment opportunities.
Bunyala sub-county Director of Education, George Owuoche, said the availability of the public library in the sub-county was timely in keeping the students busy at all times, improving their academic performance.
He urged parents to encourage their children to take advantage of the reading facility so they can benefit maximally.
“I urge professionals within the sub-county to also consider working closely with the foundation by organizing for book harvests to ensure our learners have access to diverse reading materials that would spur excellent academic performance,” said Owuoche.
What makes the public library unique?
The new public library is unique in that it has shelves that are easy to reach, even for children.
Through technology, the staff can collaborate at work or deliver individually.
It is also sub-divided into different sections for various engagements. The renewable energy used for lighting the library is also suitable for reading and is affordable, conserving the environment.
Budgetary allocation to public libraries in Kenya is inadequate.
The major challenge that usually affects most public libraries revolves around funding.
According to research, other challenges which affect libraries are:
- Poor staffing practices.
- Lack of a library policy.
- Weak ICT infrastructure.
- Poor library facilities.
- Lack of awareness of the importance of school libraries.
However, the Teresa Oyiolo Foundation representative, Ronald Ondiege, assured the would-be public library users that the Foundation has set aside adequate resources to equip the library with reading materials.
“Unlike other public libraries being run and managed by local taxes, which are usually inadequate, ours will be stable financially considering that we are liaising with the friends of the Foundation from abroad who are ready and willing to support the reading facility financially,” said Ondiege.
At the same time, he said that the public library is packed with reading materials of all genres.
Benefitting the public
Members of the public, especially students, will now be able to access the public library to read and borrow books for further use outside the library.
Stocked with all manner of reading materials on various issues of interest, the reading facility is expected to serve many people, including teachers, students, professionals, business persons, and religious leaders.
Nicholas Maseno, a small-scale businessman and farmer from Ruambwa sub-location in Bunyala North ward, expressed happiness over the establishment of the public library.
He says he can now borrow business-related books to improve his business.
Another ardent reader, Violet Chausiku, an Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) diploma student and also a teacher at a primary school in Ruambwa sub-location, says she will use the reading facility maximally during her spare moments.
Why the organization chose Bunyala
The Foundation preferred establishing a public library in Bunyala sub-county to serve not only the learning institutions without the reading facilities in their respective schools but also other members of the public who could not be allowed to read or borrow reading materials from school libraries within the sub-county.
“I brought this key service closer to the people so that the local community and learners whose hobbies are reading could easily access the reading facility to read and borrow the materials of their choice easily,” said Ondiege, the Foundation’s representative.
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Equally, many people were going to other nearby towns like Kakamega, Bungoma and Kisumu occasionally to borrow books.