Library Services in Gwanda
Serving adults, students and children.
The Edward Ndlovu Community Libraries, as a Canadian charity, works directly with the Edward Ndlovu Memorial Trust (ENMT) which provides library services in Gwanda district of Matabeleland South, Zimbabwe. According to the 2012 census Gwanda town has a population of 20,227. It is estimated that this number has now reached 25,000.
In 2000 the Trust opened a purpose-built library, the Edward Ndlovu Memorial Library, on land donated by the municipal council, and a second wing, for children, was added in 2009. Funding is now being sought for a third wing.
The library in Gwanda town serves the urban population as well as peripheral communities, mainly around nearby mines, and is the base for the Rural Outreach Program, providing Book Boxes to elementary schools. It also is the base for work with Community Study Circles to develop micro-businesses. From time to time, workshops for teachers and community members are conducted inside the Library.
The policy of the library is to allow anyone to enter and read books, magazines, newspapers which are available. Before the COVID lockdowns, visits to the library were averaging around 2,000 each month. Since some of the restrictions have been eased, users are gradually returning, but the numbers are still quite low in late 2021. We expect these to increase once we have returned to normal.
The total circulating book stock of the town library is now over 30,000. For a small subscription fee, anyone can become a member and is allowed to borrow books, however, most of our users are not members. In late 2021 our staff number 9 full-time employees.
Our director is an experienced educationist and under her work a qualified, degreed librarian, a programmes coordinator with a background in education and rural development, two library assistants, two field officers working in the rural communities, and support staff.
Adult readers in the adult section reading in the Gwanda Town Main Library
Student nurses also use the library services in Gwanda town
The diversity in terms of information needs, reading capabilities and preferences for formats and languages has required the Library to build both collections and supporting services. One of the wings of the Library houses books for adults and students from secondary level and upwards.
To ensure that they access local, regional and international current-affairs materials the Library also bought an annual subscription to seven newspapers, three daily and four weekly. Apart from subscribing to the two government-controlled papers, five independent papers are included, some of which have been provided free, as a donation.
The second wing caters specifically for children (see below). In both wings, there is plenty of reading space, as most users do not have quiet study space where they live. Furthermore, those who cannot buy memberships need to be able to read within the library.
Chidren's Wing in the Gwanda Town Library
Open Doors Children's Corner
In 2016, an Open Doors Children's Corner (ODCC) was established in the children's library, funded by Book Aid International (UK). This child-friendly corner was designed to accommodate children starting from a very young age.
The refurbishments involved painting the walls, putting up murals, book displays, colourful children's chairs, and tables, mats, dolls, paints, crayons, puzzles and cushions for children`s comfort. Whilst the corner offers a convenient place for relaxation, the area also provides a diverse and attractive collection of children’s books which are tempting to pick and read.
Children come to the ODCC to do a variety of activities. They read in a relaxed manner, play reading games, draw pictures and play with dolls. In the process, we cultivate a reading culture, for example when they play that they are reading to the dolls.
Storytelling session, part of several programmes run in the Edward Ndlovu Memorial Library, Gwanda Town
Children generally frequent the library in large numbers. They come to read, exchange books and to attend various programs. Whilst the majority of children are non-members, they still prefer to spend their leisure time in the library, and some come to be helped with their homework.
The vast majority of our books are provided by Book Aid International, and they are very appropriate for the children, but we have also managed to purchase publications in the local language, Ndebele, and these are very popular. The library works with four pre-schools in urban Gwanda in an effort to promote the use of books.
The children’s library is a hive of activity every week, especially from Tuesday to Thursday, as children stream in for their activities. The main objective of these programs is to cultivate a culture of reading, complement school efforts to improve literacy, kick-start democratic decision-making and develop literary skills.
They listen to stories and do crafts and drama and artwork based on the stories and their reading. These programs have on occasion attracted as many as 150 children on a single afternoon. During COVID, they have been suspended, but should all resume in 2022.
There is an exciting, on-going reading program at the local provincial hospital. On Thursday mornings, a librarian visits pregnant women at the Ante-Natal Clinic (572 women attended the program in 2018). On Wednesday mornings, the librarian visits nursing mothers attending the Family Friendly Clinic.
The mothers access a wide range of books and enjoy the stories. Publications of stories written in the local Ndebele language as well as one Shona-language publication are popular. This program promotes discussion and an appreciation of reading.
In the Children`s Ward (3 to 13 years), 72 children enjoyed listening to stories, many of which were written in the Ndebele language, being books commissioned by the Edward Ndlovu Memorial Trust. After a lengthy stay in the hospital, one 5-year-old could retell some of the Ndebele folk stories.
ENMT has managed to collect a large number of books most published in recent times. Here new books being processed
The Library book collection has grown over the past 30 years from a handful of titles, housed in a small room in Gwanda High school, to the 30,000 + volume-collection housed in a state-of-the-art library building.
Each year, Book Aid International provides several thousand books which replace lost and damaged books and add to the numbers. Approximately 60% of books are for children. The collection continues to grow in subject coverage and depth, positioning itself as one of the best book collections in the country, and supporting recreational reading, learning and research.
Over 80% of the volumes in this collection are materials published after the year-2000. Older books include biographies, history, and literature.
An internet hotspot was also set up in the library. With an increasing number of patrons having access to either a laptop or a tablet, the organization found it feasible to avail access to the internet to patrons through their personal devices, relieving pressure on the limited computers the library has. As part of the benefits of joining as a library member, a coupon will be awarded to members every month.
Database and OPAC
In 2016 the Library managed to successfully automate the library management system (cataloguing of books into database, online public access catalogue and computer-assisted circulation).
The library now uses the KOHA library management system, a free access software which does not require subscriptions. It is less expensive to both set up and maintain. The Library purchased the hardware, conducted the necessary training and paid for the transfer to a digitalized system. The old card-system was done away with in January 2017.
Children enjoy the e-books at the library
In 2018 the Trust entered into an agreement with Book Aid International to manage a programme for e-books. The library received 20 e-readers, each loaded with about 200 books which we had specifically requested.
A heavy safe was provided so they can be safely stored. This development sparked a great deal of interest. The library held a workshop for the teachers in the schools to train them in the effective use of the e-readers.
A collection of SeSotho books created and published by ENMT
Indigenous Language Books
In the lower grades in school, children are taught in one of the local languages – siNdebele, seSotho or chiVenda. There is a shortage of literature in these languages, especially seSotho and chiVenda. In an effort to make more literature available in these languages, the ENMT, partnered with New Zealand Aid to produce storybooks for grades 1 to 3 in the Ndebele language, then with Open Society Initiative Southern Africa (OSISA) 6 titles were produced in SeSotho for primary level readers.
The manuscripts were solicited from local teachers and ex-teachers, the best chosen, and then illustrations sourced. It is hoped that funds will be raised to produce some chiVenda storybooks. Currently work is going on with a South African publisher to translate some of their publications into SeSotho.
Partnership with Gwanda State University
A state university has recently been established in Gwanda, but they still lack the necessary infrastructure. So they have asked to form a partnership which allows their students to use our library. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed in mid 2021 which gives validity to this relationship.
The students are studying science and engineering subjects related to mining and agriculture, and thus require quite technical materials, some of which we can source through Book Aid and some of which they will house in our adult wing. We are happy to be able to make this service available in the community. Students from the Polytechnic and the Open University also make use of our facilities.