Public libraries in Africa are recognized as health information providers by significant numbers of people, according to a groundbreaking six-country study commissioned by EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries). However, the study also found that the potential of libraries to play a role in building healthy communities is undermined by lack of resources – especially modern information and communication technology (ICT).
The study took place in Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. It surveyed library users, non-users, librarians and local and national government officials. EIFL is using the study to build dialogue between library leaders and government policy-makers to increase funding to modernize and sustain libraries.
The study found that 20% of library users visit libraries to seek health information. Over 50% of library non-users perceive health information provision to be one of the top three purposes of libraries. Over 70% of librarians say that library users benefit from the health information that they find. An overwhelming majority of librarians, national and local government officials (over 90%) believe libraries can contribute to community health by providing and disseminating health information. However, all stakeholders also acknowledged that libraries are under-resourced and lack the ICT needed to meet community needs. Read the combined report and individual country studies.
Jean Fairbairn, EIFL