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Associations and InstitutionsAnnual 

64th IFLA Conference Logo

   64th IFLA General Conference
   August 16 - August 21, 1998


Code Number: 105-117-E
Division Number: VI.
Professional Group: Audiovisual and Multimedia
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 117.
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No

Emerging Developments of Audiovisual and Multimedia Use in National and Academic Libraries in Kenya

Joyce Agalo
Moi University Library
Eldoret, Kenya


This paper discusses emerging trends in the Kenyan academic and national libraries in the wake of current technological advancements. Since late 1980s, these libraries have gone through a slow paradigm shift in information provision as they began to incorporate sections of AV. and Multimedia services. The shift makes them become microcosms of change as concerns information dissemination . Using a grant from the Deans Committee, Moi University, the author visited and collected data, using interviews and questionnaires in the five state universities, two private universities and three Kenya National Library Services branches. The research survey included: a historical development of AV. services in these libraries; AV. and Multimedia resources, and the changing trends of user profiles.



In developing countries today, there is a gradual emergence of the realization that knowledge and information will be the engines to drive their economies in the 21st century. Kenya is no exception. Libraries, places where information has always been stored and offered to users, have been affected the most by current technological developments.

For long, most Kenyan libraries ( both academic and public) have based their strength on the 'presence' of print information offering textual information whose use is connected with actual presence in the libraries themselves. However, the emerging trend points to the realization that these libraries exist in an era of information explosion, hence must make use of the current technological developments in providing a variety of new formats through which information can be stored and disseminated.

The Kenyan libraries are therefore beginning to be confronted with the information explosion created by new technological developments. The capacity of the book as the only carrier of information is beginning to burst its seams. This has made many Kenyan libraries to contemplate and redefine their positions within the current information trends.

The Kenyan library organization has the following four categories: academic, public, special, and school libraries. Their systems of information provision have distinct borders as they are oriented towards specific areas of focus.


These comprise 5 state university libraries, 8 private university libraries, 4 polytechnic libraries, several teacher training and institute libraries. These libraries serve to support research, teaching / learning and other literature work oriented toward specialized scientific areas of the users.


The bulk of Kenyan public libraries is formed by the Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) branches. The others are City and Municipal libraries. The KNLS was established through an Act of Parliament in 1965. Its functions include: offering mobile library services in rural and remote areas, reference services, free advisory services to schools, services for the blind, conducts national book week exhibitions, and also have AIDS corners.


These comprise primary, secondary, and special school libraries. They serve primary and secondary school children who, through promotion strategies, are encouraged to explore school library collections for learning and leisure. They support the Kenyan educational system.


These comprise Private, Research, Diplomatic Mission, Parliament and Government Ministries libraries. They function to provide specialized information specific to their organizations.


Times have changed considerably since the late 1980s, when the demand for audiovisual librarians to establish collections particularly in public and academic libraries, was the faintest idea in Kenya, though simmering. The emerging trend in these libraries today, is portraying a move towards AV. and Multimedia resourcing as the volume of information has become the deciding factor in modern library collections.


Changes in Kenya's educational system have engendered changes in teaching / learning approaches and pre-empted a shift in practice in the resourcing requirements in academic libraries. Factors motivating the shift include: the prolification of courses, the expanding student population, the gradual recognition of student sophistication with the use of media audiovisuals, the increasing demand for continuing education and distance learning, requiring a wider utilization of information in various formats.

According to the author's research findings, the following range of AV. and Multimedia resources were available in most of the libraries visited: slides, audiotapes, radio, microforms, computers, photocopiers, videos, films telephones, televisions, internet access, fax, CD-ROMs, CD-I, OPACs.

A good number of new technology is being acquired by these universities to provide the users with ready reference they need, computer data banks and OPACs of library collections are popularly used for research purposes.


The AV. and Multimedia resourcing in these libraries is still minimal. The integration of technological advances in these libraries is therefore, still dismally slow. While the condition may be attributed to the government imposition of financial constraints on organizations using public funds, the other worrying factor is the librarians misconception concerning budgetary needs for stock acquisition - too often the " book-fund-first syndrome" prevails. A survey of the users of these libraries indicated that their literacy levels also contribute to the poor AV. and Multimedia resourcing . In fact, the majority of the users in regional branch libraries are primary and secondary school going children. Those who visit them for leisure reading have minimal educational levels, though in some regions graduate school teachers also make extensive use of these libraries. Though the old trend of media resources centre not being associated with public libraries still holds, the generation user profiles are causing ripple effects making librarians to think of establishing AV. and Multimedia resources as a means of retooling for better services.

Currently, the KNLS headquarters in Nairobi is adequately equipped with AV. and Multimedia resources. The library services here serve users with higher literacy levels and with varied information needs.

Media resources commonly found in most of the KNLS branches include radios, and cassette recorders. Whether full use is made of them, is not clear. But when the author made two visits, one to a branch library in Eldoret and another in Kisumu, she found in each of them a radio, cassette receiver, and a television set working in the children's sections. This was encouraging. The main claims that can therefore be made for the Kenya public libraries ( i.e. KNLS branches and city libraries) are: that shortly after Kenya's independence in 1963, though dominated by print, they have made along history of providing both information and leisure for the local communities in Kenya; such services have attracted many people into their reading rooms and made the public to identify libraries as important points for information search and important component of the society.


In both academic and Public libraries, there is a shortage of qualified personnel to ensure the best collection of AV. and Multimedia materials and maximize the potential of technologies and other facilities. The evolution of new tools in capturing, storing, retrieving and disseminating information have caused a considerable shift in the roles of librarians. Thus, the demand for qualified librarians with skills for management of AV. and Multimedia resources is at present high in Kenyan academic and public libraries. And the increasing demand for academic and Public libraries to cater appropriately for the disabled, especially the blind, justifies the AV. and Multimedia resourcing in these libraries. It means then that the roles of the librarians must change and be proactive.