LIBRARIES NEED NO APOLOGY. They do not need to be justified by platitudes about the heritage which books convey from one generation to the next. They prove their value by daily service in education, in research, and—most important of all in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland—in the spread of literacy. Of the three curses of Africa—ignorance, poverty and disease—one may argue that the greatest is ignorance, because the absence of knowledge prevents the elimination of the other two. The school can teach the elements of reading, can bestow on the pupil the basic tool of learning, but unless he has access to a suitable store of books on which to exercise this skill, it will steadily decay. The patient work of the teacher will have been wasted. This truth is gaining increasing recognition in Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Since the Second World War, urban and rural library services have grown up in all three territories of the Federation to supply reading material to the African population. In Nyasaland the British Council, in Northern Rhodesia the newly created Northern Rhodesia Library Service, in Southern Rhodesia the African Literature Bureau, have spread their activities far into the bush. Government, municipalities and mining companies have also attempted to satisfy the tremendous thirst for learning which exists among those Africans who work in the towns. No one would pretend that these library services are perfect. They have great difficulties of cost, distance and poor communications to overcome, difficulties which are scarcely conceivable by the librarian working in Europe. But there is a strong conviction of the need to bring the benefits of books to an ever larger proportion of the people.
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