From the 23rd through 24th of August, with the purpose of partnering with UoG on many fronts, which include a new state of the art library, the US Embassy, and various stakeholders from across Ethiopia underwent a national workshop. Representatives from a variety of Ethiopian universities attended. Nick Barnet a spokesperson for the US Embassy, located in Addis Ababa, took part as well. The workshop’s organizers, who are all a part of a consortium alliance, which includes Mr. Getaneh Gebrehana, Library and Documentation Services Director, brought to the forefront ideas, issues and possible solutions to bring about positive results for this major project in the future.
The new Central Library will serve 2 primary functions. The library’s main function is to direct prospects to user services and media processing. Preservation and organizational- services also functions as an important motivation to uphold quality practices. According to the above stated functions, the proposed library space will be divided into 3 parts. It will accommodate space for user services, media and library staff.
This central library will be like no other. It will incorporate, among others, an archives room, periodical room, reference section, Ethiopian collection section, conference rooms, meeting rooms, digital reading areas and much- much more.
In an interview with the spokesperson of the US Embassy, Mr. Nick Barnet, it was evident that such a library will not only be used for Internet and reading purposes but will be more dynamic in its approach. The new Central library could be a place where people have a chance to seek information to be better citizens. In accordance with the implementation of the new library the embassy representative reflected on the workshop, which had some good questions that were being asked.
The US Embassy is more focused on giving a heads up rather than a hand out in his opinion. They believe that Ethiopian’s capacity to achieve its goals and to be successful is in their hands. And that’s in the interests of the United States.
In the case of the library’s workshop the discussions were nothing short than significant. “ We were trying to find the responsible institutions that will share responsibility, what role they would play and how they would work together,” said Nick Barnet. That is an area where the US Embassy could help in his opinion.
The Spokesman for the Embassy reassured the public that the US can bring outside experts and will help convene and bring people together to solve even the harshest dilemmas that might hinder such a positive project.
When switching gears, I asked Mr. Barnet about how he feels about the current Journalism and Communications program here at the University because his background caters to it. His excitement was clear in his response and a sense of assurance resided in his voice for the future. “ Another reason why I am here,” he said, “is because I was very excited to learn about UoG’s new Journalism program. As a part of my work with the press here, supporting quality education for aspiring journalist is one of our core goals. So I am very excited to see how we could partner with the Journalism program here to improve the outcome for journalism students.”
His concern on journalism freedom and free expression was a question he brought up numerous times. Ethiopia is one of the few countries in the Horn of Africa that does have an independent press as well as a state run one.
In the hopes to lighten the environment of journalist and freedom of expression though, Nick proposed some minor solution that would bear real results. “ We engage on several levels to solve journalistic issues,” he affirmed, “We think training is important to work with working journalists both in the independent media as well as the state media to improve their professional skills. Also we are in close consultation with the government.”
Whether it be to assist in the Journalism and Communication department or even in advising on the way forward in the realization of this new library, the US Embassy was more than willing to make a mark.
Under the supervision of the University of Gondar’s President, Dr. Desalegn Mengesha, and the Academic Vice President, Dr. Asrat Atsedeweyn, the enlightening community based workshop was hands down a successful event. The scale of the project is sure to influence all people.
Such a library will have a significant impact in the lives of all the people who enter into it. Its role will not only be to cater to the University, but will stretch to the far-reaching territories of that area. The new libraries objectives are simple. Firstly, it will help to effectively contribute to the teaching learning process. It is evident that such information will only allow for the creative juices of aspiring intellectuals to strive to do that much more. Secondly, the library will provide students with appropriate library materials, both printed, as well as audiovisual services. And lastly, the Central Library will support students in their quest for learning and retaining skills for evaluating and using information.
The need for a new central library in the University of Gondar not only benefits the university, but also will be a major landmark for the city of Gondar. This iconic architectural behemoth will be a magnificent work of art on the campus and will be revered regionally.
In tune with keeping up with other internationally recognized library services, the University of Gondar is combining finances with intellectual fervor to complete the finalizing stages of this colossal project. It’s the intention of UoG that it alleviates all the existing problems and produces a library with all of its efficiencies and modern concepts that will make it a research ready library.
When asked about the relationship between the University of Gondar and the US Embassy Nick stated that they were excited about a number of things that are happening at UoG. “ As mentioned in my line of work the library program which, I understand their going to start a Masters in Library Science, as well as the Journalism program are very exciting.” He alluded to the fact that there are numerous areas where there is cooperation between the two parties. “ There is a history of collaboration with the center of disease control on heart issues,” he said, “and what I find interesting about universities in Ethiopia, and UoG is a great example of this, is they are centers of innovation and creative thought.”
Nick Barnet believes that constant education and innovation is the key and, more than anything, to move Ethiopia into a brighter future these traits will have to be inherent in the identity of Universities. These efforts can only increase the outlook of UoG and whether it be in the new library or even in the journalism field the foundation of Ethiopia’s top-flight University is paved with success. All in all, these are qualities UoG will undoubtedly be focusing on moving forward.
By Samuel Malede | Public and International Relations Directorate