• The president said the Sh250 million virtual library will ensure Kenyans have access to quality, timely and relevant information held by KNLS from the comfort of their homes.
• The first phase will digitise 800,000 books, periodicals, research papers, and government publications.
The government will launch a virtual library in 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.
The president said the Sh250 million virtual library will ensure Kenyans have access to quality, timely and relevant information held by the Kenya National Library (KNLS) from the comfort of their homes.
Uhuru 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," he said.
He added that "It will also contain 600,000 e-books, which are currently accessible offline through e-readers across 63 KNLS branches countrywide."
Uhuru spoke on Friday in Nairobi when he opened the new ultra-modern Maktaba Kuu building which houses KNLS headquarters.
The two-year virtual library project is being implemented 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.
“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."
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 a 500-seater gallery dubbed Sanaa Centre which is available to local artists to showcase their artifacts.
"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," Uhuru said.
The new library building also has a section for persons with disabilities where books and other materials 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 centers are strategically integrated into their development agenda.
"Citizens need transformative and empowering information to enrich their lives and those of their communities," he said.
Speaking during the occasion, Sports CS Amina Mohamed thanked the President 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.
In August this year, ODM leader Raila Odinga's wife, Ida, raised Sh176.9 million for the building of a 500-student capacity library at her alma mater - Ogande Girls High School in Homa Bay county.
The project is estimated to cost at least Sh300 million.
Ida held a fundraiser for the upcoming state-of-the-art library where she said the project will secure her legacy as a dedicated alumna as well as a lifetime teacher, career and life coach of the girl child.