Publishers task govt to revive public libraries

The Minister for Local Government, Mr Raphael Magyezi (right), launches Ms Irene Muwanguzi’s autobiography in Kampala on May 16, 2024. PHOTO/ SYLIVIA KATUSHABE       

What you need to know:

  • Uganda has only 47 public libraries across the country. However, most of them are not active due to lack of resources.

The Uganda Publishers Association (UPA) has asked the government to rejuvenate public libraries and establish more across the country to promote a reading culture and support Ugandan writers through book purchases.

Mr Martin Okia, the managing director of Elimu Publishers Ltd, also the UPA chairperson, said there is a need to review the national book policy to not only cater to academic books but also other books for general knowledge, innovation, and entertainment.

“In the national book policy, we need to have a component whereby books are not only purchased for schools. We made our contributions to the Education Policy Review Commission so that people can write books and they are procured thus encouraging a reading culture,” he added.

Speaking during the launch of Ms Irene Muwanguzi’s autobiography titled ‘A Life of Braving Contradictions’ in Kampala last Thursday, Mr Okia, the book’s publisher, explained that the government should also set up a fund to procure books for public libraries.

Mr Okia noted that this will not only encourage Ugandans to write books but also promote a reading culture.

“We have had a generation of professors, who are even consultants in outside countries, but they have not written books. They just contribute journals and when they die, they go with all their knowledge,” he said.

Uganda has only 47 public libraries across the country. However, most of them are not active due to lack of resources.

According to data on IFLA Library Map of the World, in 2017, Uganda had a total of 231 libraries, excluding those in schools. These represented 0.4 percent of public or community libraries per 100,000 people, which was below the global average of 6.8 percent.

The Minister for Local Government, Mr Raphael Magyezi, who was the chief guest, said writing is the best investment one should invest in.

“There are things we do not value, I don’t know why, maybe it is our nature, but intellectual property, doing something that we love, the moment you have written a book like this and it has been published, the rest is money flowing,” Mr Magyezi said.

Mr Magyezi encouraged Ugandans to interest themselves in writing, saying it gives a stream of income forever.

Ms Muwanguzi, also the enterprise development specialist at the PDM Secretariat in the Ministry of Local Government, said she write her life experiences and how she managed to go through some challenges so that people learn from her.