Introduction to the Botswana National Library Service
The Botswana National Library Service (BNLS) was established in September 1967 by an Act of Parliament (National Library Service Act No. 29, 1967). The main objectives of the department are to make the library service accessible to all members of the community for the purpose of education, culture, recreation, research and information, and to provide a professional advisory service to government, private organizations and other institutions interested in the development of library services. The service was officially instituted in April 1968. The Department is headed by a Director, who reports to the Permanent Secretary (through the Deputy Permanent Secretary) of the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs. There is also the National Library Service Board, which is charged with the responsibility of advising the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs on matters related to the provision of library services in the country.
The Director of the National Library Service is Secretary to the Board. At present, BNLS has nine divisions which are headed by Principal Librarians and Senior Librarians, with the exception of administration division which is headed by the Chief Executive Officer. The divisions are as follows:
Department Management Division **** Chief Executive Officer
National Reference and Special Libraries Division ****Deputy Director (Chief Librarian)
Public Libraries Division **** Principal Librarian
Educational Libraries Division **** Principal Librarian
Bibliographic Support Services Division **** Principal Librarian
Research and Publications Division **** Principal Librarian
Training Division **** Senior Librarian
Marketing Division **** Senior Librarian
Computer Services Division **** Senior Librarian
BNLS, like any other government department, is financed from the public funds generated from public taxes and other means. Section 9 of the National Library Service states, 'There is hereby established a Fund to be known as the National Library Service Fund, which shall be administered by the Permanent Secretary and which shall be used for carrying out such functions as may be conferred on the Minister by the Act'.
It goes on to say that the fund shall consist of: Such moneys as may be appropriate by law for the purposes of the National Library Service; Any moneys which may accrue to it by virtue of any regulations made under the provisions of section 11 or by reasons of any charge reasonably made for services performed by the National Library Service; Gifts, grants and bequests derived from any public or private sources;
provided that the Minister may decline to accept any gift, grant or bequest which is made subject to conditions which, in the opinion of the Minister are inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, or the general spirit in which it is administered.
This Act sets the foundation upon which library funds may be based, regardless of whether they are locally or externally generated. BNLS depends largely on government funds, but because, in most cases, the share of such funds is limited it cannot meet the full requirements of the service. The amount of funds made available is influenced mostly by the state of the national economy and the number of government functions that require funding. The government tries its best to distribute the resources equitably, but not all the services get what they request. There are priorities, and BNLS does not fall among the priority services. The development budget for the development projects of BNLS has in the past been dominated by finance from donor agencies.
The projects are geared towards rural areas because that is where most of Botswana's population live. The rural areas have limited or no essential social services and, as a result, government has given rural development a high priority; this is also an area which some external agencies are interested in funding. The public library system in Botswana is characterized by the pressing demands from the public for a library service. Communities show that they are aware of the benefits of reading. Gone are the days when the government, through its officials, would determine which would be the next village/community qualifying to benefit from the provision of a library service. Today such a task is difficult to perform because most communities are demanding a library service of some sort, but the department is quite incapable of meeting the demands out of the limited funds available to it from the government.
Present position of the public library service
Under the provision of the BNLS Act, the Botswana National Library Service is expected to provide an efficient library service throughout the country, to promote a reading culture among the general public, and to cater for the information needs of Botswana. The different types of library services are provided through the nine functional divisions all reporting to the Director.
The department has a total of about 140 staff, 95 females and 45 males. There are ten senior management positions: the heads of the nine divisions plus the Director. On the whole, the library services that have been developed over the years have benefited a large number of Batswana. The services have been extended to more areas in the country and many people are aware of the nearest library services in their area. This fact was proved by the 1994 survey on User Information Needs of Communities served by Public Libraries which showed that both users and non-users of libraries were aware of library facilities that existed in their villages or towns.
The increase in literacy levels and the need to retain the literacy skills acquired through literacy classes have created an awareness within communities themselves of the need to sustain a general reading culture through the means of BNLS library provision. However, the growth and expansion of the library service can never be discussed without identifying problems encountered in the various areas of the service. Such problems may be summarized as follows:
There is a chronic shortage of manpower. The demand for manpower capable of providing professional information services has outgrown the rate at which training is being carried out at the University of Botswana. Such a situation is most hard on the Village Reading Rooms as they are run by untrained staff.
Inadequate space and information resources in public libraries and village reading rooms.
This situation continues to affect the service and the general culture of reading in the country. There is need to help communities to construct proper building structures to be used as village reading rooms.
Inadequate hours of service
Due to shortage of staff, opening hours are either too short or inconvenient for the general reader. Computerization of services This is a new project funded by the Botswana Government and like other projects it needs adequate financial support and skilled manpower.
Ways in which library services in Botswana could be developed
BNLS operates from limited government funds, and it is for this reason that every effort should be made to consolidate the service to ensure sustainable development. For such consolidation, co-ordination and co-operation with other stakeholders are of vital importance.
Although donor agencies like the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) have withdrawn their financial aid from BNLS, there remains a need for external funders to help the Government of Botswana to develop the library service in the country. This includes support to such projects as the new Unit for Service for People with Disabilities. Country Reports – Botswana In the area of library provision in rural areas, communities are charged with responsibility for providing the building structures for village reading rooms from which such a service would be provided. There is quite a pressing demand for a library service from the public as can be seen by the initiatives that communities themselves are taking by erecting buildings from which a library service can be provided. Sometimes communities start a library service through book donations of some kind. The need for financial aid is necessary to meet the pressing demands from the public.
Such demands outweigh the rate at which BNLS is able to provide information materials, furniture and equipment and staff (trained), as is the arrangement. Donor assistance would therefore help communities put up proper building structures for the library service and also help BNLS to provide materials and staff at a rate which can satisfy the demands from the public.
Public libraries in Botswana are striving to provide a library service which satisfies the information needs of different communities/individuals. Provision of such a library service is through public libraries, village reading rooms, mobile libraries and a book box service. The service is funded by the Botswana government and, as indicated in this report, with a history of being financially supported by donor agencies. Though such donor agencies (like Sida) have pulled out because it was felt that government now has the capacity to sustain the already established projects/services, there is still need to be financially aided, more especially in the area of reaching out to the rural communities.
Head, Public Libraries Division
Botswana National Library Service
Private Bag 0036, Gaborone
Tel.: +267 352288
Fax: +267 301149
Country Reports – Botswana
about Botswana National Library Service (BNLS)
Library Name: Botswana National Library Service (BNLS)
Library Authority: Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture
National Librarian: Ms Eunice Bobana Badisang
Telephone: 00 267 3704425/3973843/3952397
Fax: 00 267 390 1149/395
Library Basic Information
Postal Address: Private Bag 0036, Gaborone, Botswana
Physical Address: Head Office, Loapi House, Plot 1271, Luthuli Road, Gaborone, Botswana
Coll Size Books: 365 000
Coll Size Periodicals: 718
Services: Interlibrary loan, ISN Agency (ISBN/ISSN), Legal Deposit, Reference Service, National Bibliography
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