What the National Library of Uganda does :: Uganda Radionetwork

Helen Muyomba, head of information and reference service at the library, says 150 authors submitted 17,096 books last year, a good sign that Ugandans are writing and recognizing the importance of the National Library.

On Saturday, April 23, 2022, Uganda joined the rest of the world in celebrating World Book and Copyright Day, which aims to promote the enjoyment of books and reading. This is the date on which several prominent authors such as William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega died. The UNESCO General Conference held in Paris in 1995 chose this day to pay worldwide tribute to books and authors and to encourage everyone to access books.

In Uganda, the National Library of Uganda organized the World Book and Copyright, which began with book exhibitions at the National Library and reading tents for children. But what is the National Library of Uganda and what does it do? Mandated to collect, preserve and disseminate Uganda’s documented heritage, the National Library of Uganda is located on Buganda Road opposite Buganda Road Primary School.

It was established by the National Library Act 2003 with the role of being the national bibliographic control agency responsible for ensuring the legal deposit of materials by publishers, publishing the national bibliography of Uganda and manage a national collection of Uganda. The library is open to the public Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with a usage fee of 2,000 shillings to access the reading area and Wi-Fi.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the library even opened on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., which has been stopped. The national library is divided into two sections, namely the legal deposit where books submitted by authors are kept and the special collection where the books are freely accessible to library users.

The special collection includes 3,063 books. Legal deposit books can only be accessed with the permission of the librarian, who searches for them in the digital system and physically obtains them from legal deposit. The library does not lend books to readers as one of the ways to ensure that the books it holds never become individual property. Before the pandemic, between 50 and 60 people used the national library every day. During school holidays, the number would increase to between 70 and 80 people.

Since the start of the pandemic, the number has been reduced to between 30 and 40 people who visit the library daily. This library has the mandate to acquire, preserve and make accessible the documented intellectual and cultural heritage of Uganda. Documented heritage includes documents of cultural, historical, research and educational value such as books, journals, government reports and many others published by Ugandan authors and organizations as well as government departments.

The library ensures the legal deposit of documents by publishers. Section 5(a) of the National Library Act 2003 states that “the right of the National Library to require from every publisher of a book or document in Uganda, at his expense, that he deposits 3 copies of the book or 1 copy of the videogram or the film and 10 copies in the case of any State service with the national library”.

This means that each Ugandan publishing a book individually or through a publisher must deposit 3 copies of the book or document at his own expense at the national library. However, books whose content is deemed unfit for public consumption are not accepted in the library deposit. Helen Muyomba, head of information and reference service at the library, says 150 authors submitted 17,096 books last year, a good sign that Ugandans are writing and recognizing the importance of the National Library.

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The National Library also assigns ISBN (International Standard Book Number) numbers to books to ensure that Ugandan publications are of high quality. The (ISBN) is a unique digital identifier of commercial books, which makes them easily marketable internationally.

Adonia Katungisa, director of the National Library of Uganda, explains that before giving an ISBN number to a book, a person at the library reads to know the contents of the book to ensure that it does not promote information considered unreadable. public consumption.

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It emphasizes the importance of the ISBN in identifying and ensuring the quality of the publication in the international market.

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Other roles of the National Library include inspecting and ensuring that public libraries comply with national policies, guidelines and standards. It is responsible for establishing national policies concerning public libraries, giving advice, issuing standards, guidelines and workbooks, providing technical and professional advisory services, and coordinating and carrying out activities advocacy for these libraries locally and internationally. .

There are 49 public libraries established by local governments. Local governments are responsible for establishing, equipping, managing and maintaining public libraries in Uganda. The national library supplies these libraries with books. According to Katungisa, the library strives to promote the culture of reading in society, especially among children in communities and schools by organizing reading tents and digitizing some of the books in e-readers.

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In 2019, the National Library partnered with the World Digital Library (WDL) through the Library of Congress to digitize documents of historical and cultural significance. The World Digital Library provides free online access to manuscripts, rare books, maps, photographs, films, sound recordings, prints, photographs and other important cultural materials from all countries.

Some of the documents that have been digitized as part of this partnership include the Buganda Agreement of 1900, the first stamps of Uganda as a protectorate, the first Ugandan currency, the first translations of the Bible into different languages ​​and the “Biscuit Tin Bible”, maps of explorers. and images of tribal leaders in the late 19th and early 20th century, traditional robes and regalia from various tribes and others.

Hosea Luwano, an author of books in various disciplines, says the library also faces the challenge of not buying books from local authors and instead relying on donations from foreign countries. This, he says, lowers authors’ morale to write books because the library is supposed to buy copies from authors and give them to public libraries across the country. However, Katungisa says they are unable to purchase books due to limited funding.

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Another challenge he cites is the weak reading culture among Ugandans, which he says leads to low production of books and reading materials.

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He also denounces the absence of a permanent seat for the national library, which currently operates in a building belonging to the Patidar Samaj, Asian community. Katungisa says the lack of a permanent structure built for the sole purpose of housing a national library also makes document preservation difficult as preservation equipment cannot be accommodated in the current building.

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In addition to this, the library lacks a digital platform where books by Ugandan authors can be deposited in digital form and accessed by the growing audience of young people who use the internet more frequently. According to Katungisa, this is in preparation and a digital platform will soon be set up. The library is supposed to hold information in other formats such as audio and video.

However, all library information is now in the form of documents limiting accessibility to those who cannot read. Katungisa says that for this challenge, they are working on signing international protocols such as ISMN to be able to store information in these formats for better accessibility.

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