Mzuzu University fire leaves irreplaceable loss

Entrance of Mzuzu University before January 2016 fire. Photo courtesy mwnation.com

In a press-release-message to the Africa-l mailing list, on behalf of the Malawi Library Association (MALA), Nhlapo, Lindi shares Mzuzu University loss:

“Malawi Library Association (MALA) has learnt with great shock and disbelief about the fire incident which occurred at Mzuzu University Library on Friday 18th December, 2015 in which over 45 000 books, journals, and related resources as well as equipment, furniture and fittings got burnt down to ashes and some got badly damaged by the blaze.

Now, that is a huge blow:

“This is a very big loss, not only to Mzuzu University but also to Malawi as a nation. Mzuzu University Library was a model library in the provision of modern library and information services in the country. All the books, journals, equipment, furniture and related fittings were carefully selected in line with modern standards. It was one of the richest reservoirs of knowledge in Malawi and beyond.

The loss of such rich history and knowledge in form of books is an unfortunate incident, one we hope does not happen to any other library in Africa or elsewhere, considering how hard it is to come across these form of invaluable content.

With this in mind, what do you think the solution is, more preventative measures against fires?

How about a future-proof, long-lasting alternative — digitization? Digitization is not easy to roll out. The National Archives of the Netherlands considers digitizing their rich archive and weighs in the process and ways to go about. Although we all know digitizing is the way forward, it isn’t always easy to begin with, when tens of thousands of content are placed in context.

Yet, digitization is one area where when invested into, can stand the chance of lasting forever.

Read more here about efforts to save ancient African library books.

The local Wikimedia Ghana User Group after weighing in on the possibility of losing the rich archive of Ghana has already started an aggressive effort to get them digitized by encouraging more online editors of Wikipedia working on pieces of historical relevance to Ghana and Africa.

The loss at the Mzuzu Library does not reside within their borders. It is a tragic event for all on the African continent and beyond. The Wikimedia Ghana User Group shares the loss of Malawi and is calling for all to join the race to help digitize Africa and world’s rich history for the sake of posterity.

The time to digitize is now!

About Rexford Nkansah

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