The history of libraries in Zambia is linked with the colonial history of the country. Cultural traditions and beliefs of various ethnic groups were preserved through memorv and repeated orally from generation to generation. The changeover from oral traditions to the written word came with the arrival of missionaries who introduced Western education with its emphasis on reading and writing skills. The first missionary to arrive in Zambia, David Livingstone, introduced the first prototype library. Known as the "tin-truck" portable library, it was carried around during his travels in Zambia between 1853 and 1873.
The Livingstone subscription librarv was one among the first libraries established in Livingstone about 1908; and in the 1920s a number of small subscription libraries were set up in the townships such as Chipata, Kasama, Mongu, Mansa, Lusaka, Luanshya, Choma, and Ndola. Those libraries were used mostly by Europeans who could afford to pay membership and subscription fees.
The British South Africa Company, founded by Cecil Rhodes in 1889, ruled Zambia (then called Northern Rhodesia) until t924, and did almost nothing to provide and develop library services for the Africans. Similarly, the British colonial government, which ruled Zambia from 1924 to 1964, did not do much either except that some money from its Colonial Development and Welfare Fund was used to establish the Northern Rhodesia Publications Bureau in 1947. The Bureau, renamed joint Publications Bureau of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1948, introduced a country book-box library scheme in 1959 that provided the majority of Africans their first access to library services. In 1960 the joint Publications Bureau received a grant-in-aid from the Ford Foundation toward the development of countrywide public library service in Zambia. This grant led to the establishment in 1962 of the Northern Rhodesia Library Service, which was subsequently renamed the Zambia Library Service.
Public library service in Zambia received little government support and suffered from lack of public library legislation. Further contributing factors to disappointing development were unfavorable economic and environmental conditions, resulting in falling prices for exports and rising costs for imports; inadequate transport facilities; unproductive farming; lack of foreign exchange-, and mounting inflation.
National Library and Archives
Although no national library was established by legislation, the University of Zambia (UNZA) Library serves the functions of a national library. Wherever possible, it extends its facilities and services to scientists and researchers beyond the University community from its holdings of 300,000 volumes. It is a depository for government and international publications and repository of printed official documents of the United Nations and its agencies. The Library has extensive collections of East African government publications, Zambiana (including oral history and archival materials), Africana, Livingstoniana, and material on former Portuguese territories in Southern and Central Africa, the Simon's Collection on African law, and University theses.
The Library of the National Archives of Zambia in Lusaka was developed into a relatively advanced reference and research center for the country. It has record centers in the nine provinces of the country. Its origin can be traced back to 1935 when the Archives of Zimbabwe was inaugurated and its services extended to Malawi and Zambia in 1946. An act establishing the National Archives of Zambia was passed in 1969.
The Archives Library has almost 13,500 books, 360 foreign periodicals, 310 Zambian periodicals, and more than 20,000 archival files. The historical manuscripts in the archives include private papers of explorers, missionaries, administrators, and political figures dating back to 1877. Among the important collections are the papers and diaries of President Kenneth David Kaunda of the Republic of Zambia.
The Library has legal deposit rights and all the books and periodicals so received are registered and compiled annually into a National Bibliography of Zambia, published since 1970.