The Government is implementing a Kshs 250 million virtual library to ensure Kenyans have access to quality, timely and relevant information held by the Kenya National Library from the comfort of their homes, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.
The President disclosed that the virtual library, which will be launched by June 2021, will have a capacity of 15 million publications.
“The first phase will digitize 800,000 books, periodicals, research papers and government publications. It will also contain 600,000 e-books, which are currently accessible offline through e-readers across 63 KNLS branches countrywide,” the President said.
President Kenyatta was speaking today in Nairobi when he opened the new ultra-modern Maktaba Kuu building which houses the Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) headquarters.
The two-year virtual library project is being implement by the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage in collaboration with the Sports, Arts and Social Development Fund.
The Head of State emphasized that an important part of the virtual library project is to ensure that all Kenyans, wherever they are, have access to reading materials.
“The elaborate ICT infrastructure within the facility will facilitate community access to online information and connect them to the rest of the world,” he said.
The President pointed out that Maktaba Kuu, which is the first multi-purpose library in Kenya, is part of his Administration’s promise to open new avenues for Kenyans to learn, obtain information, expand their intellectual horizons and promote a reading culture.
He said Maktaba Kuu is not just a building but an ever-broadening platform, from where Kenyans can build on existing knowledge to address our current societal challenges.
“This marks an important milestone for us and for the future generations, who stand to benefit from our continued commitment to knowledge and information sharing,” the President said.
Special features of the library building include a 300 capacity children theatre, a 50-capacity senior citizens section and four auditoriums with a combined capacity of 1,200 people tailored to provide spaces for local authors and artists to showcase their work.
It also has 500-seater gallery dubbed Sanaa Centre which is available to local artists to showcase their artefacts.
“Soon after the opening of the library, I am assured that Kisii sculptors will be the first group to showcase their work. I am pleased to note that some of the pieces to be showcased are available for viewing today,” President Kenyatta said.
The new library building also has a section for persons with disability where books and other material are available in different formats including Braille, audiobooks and large print formats.
The President challenged national and county leaders to ensure that libraries as information resource centres are strategically integrated into their development agenda.
“Citizens need transformative and empowering information to enrich their lives and those of their communities,” the President said.
Speaking during the occasion, Sports, Culture and Heritage CS Amina Mohamed thanked President Kenyatta for his leadership that ensured the delivery of the state-of-the-art public repository of information and knowledge for the people of Kenya.
KNLS Chairman Noah Katana Ngala said the new building is part of the library service’s transformative strategy that is geared towards moving away from dependence on Government funding.
At another event in Nairobi today, President Kenyatta inaugurated a modern 100-bed capacity hospital built in a record time of three months to cater for COVID-19 patients.
The Kshs 846 million ($8 million) facility, which is equipped with 15 bed intensive care unit and 45 bed high dependency unit, is a partnership project of the Kenya Government, United Nations and Nairobi Hospital.
Speaking during the function, President Kenyatta noted that the new medical facility is a towering monument of the transformative power of collective global action which will serve as a showcase of the United Nations in Africa and globally.
The President said the fully-fledged hospital with modern facilities such as laboratories and operating theaters will serve UN staff and Kenyans way beyond the current Covid-19 pandemic.
“It will cater for United Nations staff and their families, the entire diplomatic community and augment the health care capacity in Kenya. It will also be accessible to all Kenyans even after the pandemic is eliminated; and will, in future be used to treat other infectious diseases,” President Kenyatta said.
The President who was accompanied by Cabinet Secretaries Mutahi Kagwe (Health) and Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs) said the treatment centre will reinforce the position of Nairobi as the United Nations Medevac center in the Southern Hemisphere.