Walvis Bay — THE high number of outdated books found in libraries across the country is a shocking state of affairs, says the Chairperson of the Namibia Library and Information Council, Elia Kaiyamo.
Speaking at the official opening of an American Corner in the Walvis Bay public library, Kaiyamo - who is a Swapo MP - said a countrywide tour of libraries by members of the council had found books dating as far back as 1948.
Kaiyamo said that the Minister for Basic Education, Sport and Culture, John Mutorwa, had pleaded a shortage of Budget funds to replace all these books.
"That is why we need to demand more money for books," Kaiyamo told the gathering.
"But we will only get more support if parents also start reading. If parents don't read, how can we expect children to read?"
Established in February 2002, the council has tackled a number of issues related to libraries and information services in general, and has recommended that Government ratify the Florence Agreement, which calls for the abolition of Customs duties and other restrictive measures placed on the importation of educational, scientific and cultural materials.
Turning to the three libraries at Walvis Bay -the only Namibian libraries managed and financed by a Local Authority - Kaiyamo said they were "indeed impressive" in terms of public patronage and the variety of services rendered.
King Mandume Muatunga, Mayor of Walvis Bay, said the American Corner would further the libraries' mission and ultimately foster a love of reading and residents' interest in obtaining information.
The US Embassy donation which establishes the American Corner, pays for 12 computers with Internet access, and about 500 books and periodicals worth almost N$400 000 in all.
The books cover topics such as the values of a democratic society, and socio-economic issues including HIV-AIDS, empowerment of women and small-business development.
The new resources are distributed between the three libraries at Walvis Bay, Narraville and Kuisebmond.
US Ambassador Kevin McGuire, speaking at the occasion, said: "I hope that the computers will become windows on the world through which young Namibians can pursue their futures and fulfil their dreams".
He said Namibians should take pride in the high percentage of Budget resources reserved by Government for education, compared to the proportion allocated by other countries.
Between July 2001 and June 2002, some 80 000 books were borrowed from Walvis Bay's three libraries.
This is the second American Corner sponsored by the US Embassy.
The first one was opened by President Sam Nujoma at the University of Namibia's Northern Campus at Oshakati just over a year ago.