The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in the United States of America (USA) has offered to provide free architectural designs for a state-of-the-art library at Mzuzu University (Mzuni).
The design, according to Virginia Tech’s director of the Center for Design Research, Professor Robert Dunay, will be completed by end 2017, with Mzuni expected to have the building completed by 2019 depending on availability of funds for the construction.
“We are on a fact-finding mission as we are trying to get a grasp of specific needs of the programmes and faculties in the university. In this kind of process, the first thing you really need to do is to put up some kind of a programme that could be specific in terms of square footage, could be cultural, social, and might be historical to understand what might drive the design of a library.”
“So, we have started to talk to the stakeholders, people on the technical and organisational as well as academic side. We want to find all the different views, and other stakeholders are the students, we have to understand their perception of the library,” he said.
Dunay said libraries all over the world keep on changing as they incorporate both the physical copies and the e-resources.
Mzuni vice-chancellor Robert Ridley said the e-library will help expand e-learning at the institution, especially among open and distance learning (ODL) students.
“We have regular students, and some on ODL basis, who will need to access resources from their homes. So, building up a strong database of physical books and then electronic ones is important. Once you have that electron information, it’s a value for all the students. We want to become a modern university with a modern library.”
Librarian Felix Majawa added that the e-section is envisaged to have two servers, with one based at the institution. “It has been a challenge for some time in Malawi to subscribe to e-books for example, but that is being sorted by the publishers because they are coming to us.
“The challenge is for e-books you have to deal directly with publishers because you are looking at specific books, but for e-journals, you have a consortium of issues and you are dealing with a number of institutions.”
Virginia Tech will also be donating 19 phone tablets to Mzuni, which according to Majawa, will be the start of a modernised e-library.
The team from Virginia Tech is led by Professor Jack Davis, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at the university.
Last year, Mzuni set an ambitious three-year target to have a $5million library that would replace the one that was destroyed by fire in December 2015.