SANKALE: Libraries essential component in countries’ plans to boost literacy - Daily Nation

Libraries essential component in countries’ plans to boost literacy

Sunday September 9 2018


September 8 was declared the International Literacy Day by Unesco on October 26, 1966, in its 14th session of general conference, and was celebrated for the first time in 1967.

The day emphasises the importance of literacy and access to information to individuals, communities and societies.

Having celebrated this year’s ILD on Saturday, it’s important to understand the link between libraries and literacy. The day is, indeed, the best opportunity for governments and other institutions to reflect on the challenges that hinder access to basic information.

Literacy has traditionally been thought of as reading and writing but it encompasses more. It is the ability, confidence and willingness to engage with information to acquire, construct and communicate meaning in all aspects.

What is the place of libraries in this Information Age, and what’s their role in sustainable development?


 Developed countries refer libraries as organisations that offer a platform to access information for education, research, general reading and for leisure.

Institutions tagged “libraries” are synonymous with education and offer countless learning opportunities that fuel economic and socio-cultural development.

Libraries, particularly in developing and under-developed nations, face many challenges as governments struggle to understand and document the role they play in schools.

Studies in all areas of information science have suggested loopholes hindering growth and development of school libraries.

In Kenya, for example, there is no known national information policy that requires primary and secondary schools to have libraries. The responsibility is left to school administrations to build libraries and employ librarians.


There is a need to identify the need for libraries in schools and try to have one for each school.

Years back, libraries were misidentified as repositories for dusty books but today’s libraries are actually cutting-edge information hubs designed to help people get the resources, materials and connections that users need, whether for work, school, leisure or any other connected purpose.

As Kenya implements a new education system, it is important to see libraries as the drivers and platforms that promote literacy.

Information access needs to be prioritised in primary and secondary schools by promoting libraries and equipping information professionals with training and knowledge to enable them to interact with digital information and disseminate it to the users promptly.

Governments should start enacting laws and adopting policies that promote literacy and information retrieval skills.