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Harare City Library Goes Digital

High school and university students, post-graduate or professional learners are set to benefit from the Harare City Library following its subscription to international online resources.

Over the past few months all the attention was upon Harare City Library’s newly-acquired beautiful outlook and its expanding capacity to host literary events such as LitFest Harare and the Swedish/Zimbabwean Children Literature Day held last month.

Yet, unknown to some people, the services, particularly those in the computer lab, have also expanded, improved and inspire.

The city library has become a modern niche for research or particular line of study because it has brought in the digital world of knowledge. The traditional book is now complemented with the e-resources.

In an interview recently, Harare City Library’s Takwana Masunda said the Library is moving forward with technology and has over 200 online resources available now to library users.

He said that people should now know that the library no longer stocks only the traditional books but also there are now complementary e-resources such as the online Oxford Reference Library and Oxford Quick Reference.

One of these exciting new developments is the HCL’s perpetual or permanent access to numerous titles including encyclopaedias and dictionaries from the Oxford Reference Library.

The Oxford Reference Library is an online collection of in-depth, specialist content from Oxford’s award-winning Encyclopaedias and Companions, as well as a critical selection of partner publishers’ scholarly works.

These major reference titles cover the arts, literature and language, law, history and culture, science, and social sciences, and are available to access online exclusively through Oxford Reference.

The references are applicable to secondary school pupils and staff, college and university students and lecturers as well researchers and readers.

“We believe that there are still some people considering us the traditional book library but we have moved with the times. We now also have online resources,” said Masunda.

Using the Oxford online resource is not complicated at all, although it comes with buying internet time which does not cost much in the library’s computer lab.

The friendly library staff at HCL is always there to help even those who have never used a computer before, making it a free training ground for basic computer literacy as well.

Masunda added that the online Oxford Reference Library can only be accessed in the library and there are minimal charges for one to use it over different given periods of time.

How wonderful then it is to have the Oxford Reference Library titles available at the HCL for anyone who is an avid learner and/or reader. To access the online resource one has to be a library member first.

Some of the titles available include Dictionary of African Biography, Black Women in America, Encyclopaedia of African Thought, Handbook of International Financial Terms, Oxford Companion History of Modern Science, New Oxford Companion to Law, Encyclopaedia of Climate and Weather, and many others covering a wide range of subjects.

Other resources that are now accessible from the Harare City Library include the Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE), which provides access to one of the world’s largest collections of environmental science research, access to Global Online Research in Agriculture which gives access to major scientific journals in agriculture and related biological, environmental and social sciences, HINARI (Access to Research in Health Programme) which gives access to the major journals in biomedical and related social sciences. Also accessible is the ARDI – Research for Innovation Database.

The HCL has also subscribed to the Oxford Quick Reference, another important online resource.

The availability of these online Oxford products, courtesy of the HCL – with support from the British Embassy – is a huge development.

No wonder why no sooner did the HCL subscribed to these online resources late last year than the library became a hive of activity with young people whose careers are inseparable from the expansive pool of knowledge offered by world-renowned institutions such as the Oxford University Press.

The dream, according to Harare City Library, is for it to be able to provide e-books and e-resources that will be accessible from remote locations, and then opening another virtual library that will be accessible 24/7 for its subscribers.

Currently, users can pay US$2 for an hour or more until end of day and then it is $10 for a month, $20 for three months, $30 for six months and $45 for the whole year. One can access the e-resource for free if it is browsing for less than an hour.

The Harare City Library, situated along Rotten Row Road, adjacent to the Rainbow Towers, is a public library service established by the Harare City Library Act [Chapter 25:05] as the Harare City Library Trust, whose assets are vested in the Board for the people of Zimbabwe.

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