On Monday, an 11-person delegation from Mzuzu University (Mzuni) will be visiting Virginia Tech for a week. The purpose of their visit is to engage with students and faculty in relation to the design of a new library for Mzuni. In 2015, Mzuni lost their library, containing over 45,000 titles, to a fire caused by an electrical fault. Since then, the Mzuni Library Initiative – an effort led by Virginia Tech and supported by Radford University, local community groups, and the Malawian Education and Children’s Welfare Foundation – has shipped over 8,000 books to Mzuni for their temporary library (see the video below).
During the past year, four faculty and around 20 students in the School of Architecture + Design have developed three conceptual designs for a new Mzuni library (see the images on the front of the binders below). During their visit, the Mzuni delegation will explore each of these designs and connect with faculty across Virginia Tech who are supporting an effort to design a data analytics and visualization research+learning facility that could be located in the new library.
The students will be publicly presenting their library designs on Wednesday, February 14, from 1-3pm in the foyer to Cowgill Hall. Please consider attending this event of you would like to learn more about this project.
In December 2016, Mzuzu University (Mzuni) experienced a tragic fire during which they lost their entire library of 45,000 titles. This was a major loss for the university and for the northern part of Malawi, where educational books are extremely scarce. I visited Mzuzu University the day before the fire and took was is probably the last photo of the library. In July of this year, I co-taught a joint WASH course for Virginia Tech, Denver University, and Mzuni students at Mzuzu University and was able to visit the library again. I was reminded of the shear scale of the destruction that is captured by the sequence of images below.
We are now focusing our efforts on finding a way to ship these boxes to Malawi and hope to have them in route within the coming weeks.
During my time at Mzuzu University this July, I was able to speak with the Vice Chancellor and the Chief Librarian about how Virginia Tech could continue to help their rebuilding effort. In addition securing replacement books, there is also a need to help design a new signature library building. Given Virginia Tech’s expertise in architecture, building construction, engineering, etc., my plan is to find a way for our students and faculty to work on this new phase of the Mzuni Library Initiative. Please contact me if you believe you can help.
For the next two years (or more), students at Mzuni will have access to a temproary library (see below) that is slowing beginning to expand its collection of books. While they have made some progress, they are far from having the full range of books needed to support all of their academic programs. Our hope is that the 5,000 books (~10% of the books lost in the fire) we send will significantly improve their situation.
Following the devastating library fire at Mzuzu University, several people and organizations have contacted me in relation to how they can help support the effort of rebuilding the university’s library. In the past week, I was forwarded an email from Hayden Boyd, the President of the Malawi Education and Children’s Welfare Foundation, that I outlines the donation process that Mzuzu University would like groups in the U.S. to follow. I have provided a copy of this email below for your reference.
Hello to all,
Following the devastating fire that destroyed Mzuzu University’s library, many on this list have expressed concern and willingness to help. I was privileged to serve as a research professor and director of research at the University 2002-2005, and since returning to the USA I have noted its impressive growth in size, scope, and academic quality during regular visits. The loss of the University library is a terrible setback to this progress.
Vice Chancellor Robert Ridley has written me that, despite this loss, the University intends to keep to its academic calendar and open in January for distance learning students and in March for returning face-to-face students. They are working out an interim approach over the next 12 to 24 months, as they seek to get a new library built, plus a strategy to get funds for a new library. Clearly, much needs to be done.
Dr. Ridley has asked the Malawi Education and Children’s Welfare Foundation to serve as an institutional base to promote the University’s cause, receive funds and help the University coordinate support from the USA. The Foundation is a 501(c)3 tax exempt foundation established for the support of Mzuzu University and other educational and children’s welfare institutions in Malawi. Our Board of Directors have all lived and worked in Malawi and I serve as the Foundation’s president.
On behalf of Mzuzu University, I invite you to help support the library’s rebuilding. Checks may be made to “Malawi Education and Children’s Welfare Foundation,” with “Mzuzu University library” in the memo field, and sent to:
Malawi Education and Children’s Welfare Foundation 507 Delburg Street Davidson, NC 28036
All contributions to the Foundation are tax deductible under US law.One hundred percent of all donations are used for the designated purpose in Malawi, with never a deduction for administrative or overhead expenses.
Many also have suggested donating books, computers, or other items. I believe it would be wise to hold off on in-kind donations until the University informs us of its needs and logistical challenges can be addressed.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely, Hayden Boyd
In a subsequent email from a colleague at Mzuzu University, I was informed that a Library Task Force committee has been created by the Vice Chancellor and University Librarian. This task force has asked each faculty member/department to develop a list of books that they would like to see included in a new library. The Library Task Force committee will liaise with the Malawi Education and Children’s Welfare Foundation as the point of contact in the U.S. I will post updates on this process as soon as I have them.
In the coming weeks, TEAM Malawi (a group of faculty and students at Virginia Tech and Radford University) will meet to discuss the actions we can take to help Mzuzu University recover from this loss. I will post information here on any activities that colleges, schools, departments, faculty, and/or students plan to undertake in the coming months.