Library and Information Association of Eritrea strengthens Digital Libraries in Eritrea

In Eritrea, most of the libraries are not well equipped with resources. It is undeniable that their collections need to be considerably expanded and updated.

This means that readers, researchers, and students lack access to important resources. To address this challenge, the Library and Information Association of Eritrea (LIAE) engages in efforts to offer up-to-date resources and disseminate information across the society. The LIAE is particularly focused on the establishment of new libraries and the renovation or expansion of existing ones.

The Danish-Eritrean Network (DEN) is a long-standing partner of the LIAE. Over the years, it has extended considerable support to the LIAE and Eritrea, by sending, among other things, hundreds of computers to Eritrea. The DEN is a non-profit group o f E r i t r e a n s and Danes based in Denmark. The cooperation between DEN, the Eritrean Ministry of Education (MOE), and the LIAE began in 2005. This partnership aimed to modernize the education system and resources in Eritrea, as well as transform the pedagogical approach, improve student performances and experiences, and support research.

Notably, in October 2018, the LIAE received around 700 computers, servers, and network accessories from DEN. In line with its objective of supporting equitable and efficient library services, the LIAE is distributing the computers and other resources to schools and other institutions. At the annual meeting of the LIAE, held last month, Kiflom Mikael, the president of the LIAE, presented a report detailing the distribution of computers to selected schools, institutions, and libraries. Mr. Kiflom stated that its distribution process is guided by the principles of equality and impartiality. Furthermore, the LIAE tries to ensure that schools in remote areas of the country and less fortunate populations receive support and access to the resources.

The LIAE distributed computers to all the regions other than the Southern Red Sea region. Recipients included 5 middle schools, 12 high schools, 11 vocational and higher education institutions, 18 government institutions, and 3 community libraries. As well, the Eritrean National Association for the Blind, the Eritrean National Association for the Deaf, and prison rehabilitation centers also received supplies. The LIAE also extended support to schools in remote areas. Many of these schools have been eager to establish digital library services after the implementation of solar panels.

In order to ensure the proper use of computers, the LIAE has worked with the Rora Digital Library. In particular, efforts have focused on the development of a website that could offer intranet, uploading, and training services for users. Over the past few years, the Rora Digital Library has opened digital libraries in different parts of the country. This has greatly enhanced educational quality and improved general access to information for many individuals and students.

In many ways, technology has made research a lot easier than in the past. Decades ago, students learned history by going to the library and searching for history books. Today, many of those same books are available in a digital format. They can be accessed online or offline through a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Through the contributions and support of the LIAE, many students across the country, including in remote rural areas, are provided access to laptops, computers, smartphones, and tablets. This situation has totally transformed the policies in many schools. For example, students were previously not permitted to use smartphones on the school premises. However, through the introduction of digital libraries and other services, schools have begun to change their policies and incorporate the use of technology into the teaching and learning process. Computers, tablets, and smartphones can allow students to become more focused on their work at home, greatly enhance learning opportunities and access to material, and allow them to engage in collaborative projects with other students.

The LIAE believes that expanding digital library services in schools supports the “student-centered learning approach” since it provides them with easy access to a large array of materials and resources. For example, students in Freselam Middle School, Ghindae Junior and Secondary School, Keyih Bahri Secondary School, and Barka Secondary School are easily able to access materials from their digital library using their tablets. This practice will definitely provide students with the opportunity to develop their reading skills and share the knowledge and experience that they acquire.

Our school libraries suffer from shortage of books and other reference materials. For this reason, it is common to see students sharing library books. Now, through the introduction of digital library services, students are all able to use the same resources simultaneously. Additionally, the digital library allows students to access materials around the clock, while traditional libraries may be limited in their hours of service.

The digital library collection comprises all academic books published by the Ministry of Education and other relevant reference materials. It also offers access to academic and special journals, countless books, audiovisual lectures, and other reference materials.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Education, the LIAE is working on developing effective school library programs. For example, it focuses on providing students with digital literacy skills and preparing them for college study.

Importantly, by introducing advanced technology into the school curricula, the LIAE is helping prepare students for the future and is allowing them to be comfortable with technology. As well, such initiatives will help resource-sharing networks among libraries and other institutions. Importantly, the digital libraries can also increase collaboration between school librarians, teachers, and administrators, which can be important to enhance school effectiveness and performance.

All the beneficiaries of resources are now registered members of the LIAE and they have expressed their readiness to provide efficient services to the public. In particular, schools and libraries will be entrusted with the responsibility of integrating the technology into pedagogy and curricula. The LIAE is excited to see the enthusiasm of school directors, teachers, and students to make use of the new technology and resources and it is ready to help quench their thirst for knowledge.