The UNZA Main Library is facing a critical challenge in meeting new demands of the 21st century, with its ever increasing population growth, inadequate library facilities and resources. The purpose of university libraries is to support teaching, learning, and research in ways consistent with, and supportive of, the institution's mission and goals. In addition, library resources and services should be sufficient in quality, depth, diversity, and currency to support the institution's curriculum. To say the least university libraries are considered as the most important resource centre of an academic institution. They are perceived as a good measure of an institution's excellence and quality.
It is for this reason that library services should focus more on the use of resources provided for their patrons. The academic information, resources and services available in the institutional information systems must be seen to be capable of supporting research activities as well among researchers, members of staff and students.
But is this the case with the University of Zambia (UNZA) Great East Road Main Library? The UNZA Main Library is facing a critical challenge in meeting new demands of the 21st century, with its ever increasing population growth, inadequate library facilities and resources. The library is stocked with outdated books and material which users are unable to reference to. It is now simply used as a study place where students go to with their notebooks to read but no further research is done. Adequate library resources and services, at the appropriate level for degrees offered should be made available to support the intellectual, cultural, and technical development of both members of staff and students.
It is important to note that the growth of research in all fields of human endeavour is becoming increasingly detailed and sophisticated, leading to members of staff, researchers and students to realise that the library has a great role to play in the provision of information necessary for their day to day research and further reading. Moreover, the library should act as a medium of getting the latest scientific and technological information either in print or electronic form.
University libraries should be able to have a collection of a variety of both old and latest materials for preservation and use of the library patrons. These resources should not only include traditional print-on-paper media like books, journals, newspapers, and maps, but also audiovisual materials like records, audiocassettes, video cassettes and projectors. The UNZA main library in this should try to maintain collections such as art reproductions, maps, photographs, microfiches, CD-ROMs, computer software, online databases, Internet, electronic books and e-journals that would help all its users in all aspects possible.
UNESCO in 1979 defined the library as any organised collection of printed books and periodicals or any graphic and audio visual materials and the services of the staff to provide and facilitate that such materials as are required meet the information, research educational or recreational needs of its user.
Assessing the UNZA main library against UNESCO’s 1979 definition today could be unexplainable to many but the library so to speak does not have adequate books to say the least up-to date books to aid students in their research. The question then is ‘Can the UNZA main library meet the information, research, educational and recreational needs of students and researchers? ‘when will the UNZA main library fit into the definition of a library as by UNESCO?’ ‘When will UNZA main library boast of adequate collection of books, periodicals and electronic resources to meet with the needs of library users?’ These are pertinent questions that need to be answered in order to know the current state of library resources at UNZA.
However, librarians at UNZA are hard working people trying to put the library in place for users despite the few resources placed at their disposal. However, these problems could be minimised if library administrators would become more vigorous in lobbying university administrators as well as the government to see the importance of the library and to release more funds. This can be achieved by acquiring both relevant library resources in electronic and book materials through donations from organisations and the alumni to try and update the main library.