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Zanzibar Library Services


History of Zanzibar Library Services

The need to establish a public library in Zanzibar was emanated by the Hockey's Report. Unfortunately the political changes in Zanzibar in early 1960s interrupted the project and in fact it was never implemented.

The spirit to start a Central Public Library however has always been there and was revived in 1980s. It was USIS who asked permission to establish a library. The idea was accepted by Zanzibar Government and the Americans dispatched two containers full of books and furniture. Then the Ex-telecom was chosen as a good site for the new library. Unfortunately, the government of USA postponed this program before it took off. The books and furniture were given to Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. Then the Ministry turned to British Council to get help to establish its own Central Library.

In 1988, Zanzibar Public Library, the first public library was established in Zanzibar Town by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. The library was first located in the Ex-telecom Building which is now the famous Serena Inn. Later in late 1989 it was shifted to another temporary base in Vuga, near the Zanzibar High Court.

Thereafter in December 1994 the first branch library was opened in Chake Chake, in the sister Island of Pemba.

From April 2005, five district libraries are established in Zanzibar Island and three district libraries in Pemba. As starting point, these district libraries are temporary accommodated in the Teacher Centers (TC) which are well established and are located centrally in each district. Each Teacher Centre received two boxes of books and more books are to be supplied in September, 2006.


In the year 2004/2005 the Z.L.S had spelt its vision, that is:-

'To have a society which is satisfied with good library and information services'


The management has also outlined its mission so that the current vision is realized. Among the mission are:-

  • To create conductive working environment for efficient and effective delivery of services;
  • To ensure good maintenance and provision of necessary facilities;
  • To ensure provision of good library service;
  • To purchase books, newspapers and periodicals;
  • To provide fast, adequate digital information through the use of internet services.


To help and support education, cultural, leisure and information needs for all peoples of Zanzibar and Pemba.

Functions of Zanzibar Library Board

To enhance the library development in Zanzibar, the government passed the bill 'Zanzibar Library Services Board Act of 1993'.Among the functions of this Board are:-

  • to promote establish, equip, maintain and develop libraries in the Islands of Zanzibar in search a manner as to meet the library requirements of the whole population there of;
  • to actively promote book reading and library use throughout the islands;
  • to set up, establish, equip, manage, maintain and develop documentation centers and to provide documentation services;
  • to initiate, sponsor, participate in, finance and assist in campaigns for the eradication of illiteracy;
  • to provide an efficient and effective library service in both urban and rural areas, catering for the library needs of all sectors of the community;
  • to stimulate public interest in literature generally, and Swahili literature in particular;
  • to encourage the production and distribution of books and other literary works;
  • to provide the facilities and means for the study of, and for basic training in, the principles, procedures and techniques of librarianship and such other related subjects as the Board may from time to time decide;
  • to sponsor, arrange and provide facilities for conferences and seminars for discussion of matter relating to library and documentation services;

In pursuance of the above objectives and functions, the library engages itself

  • It conducts short courses for untrained library workers who operate the departmental libraries and documentation centers.
  • It helps schools, government institutions and NGO to establish their libraries or documentation centers.
  • It works with embassies or NGO's to conduct special programs and paper shows.
  • It cooperates with TLA, AZLIS and SLADS to conduct seminars and workshops.
  • Offer services to students who conduct research.

Institutional Governance

The Zanzibar Library Services Board is a government organ under the Ministry of Education And Vocational Training (MoEVT). The president of Zanzibar appointed the Chairman and the Director while Minister of Education and Vocational Training appoints the remaining Board members. According to MoEVT's organization chart, the Board is directly under the Minister.

For day to day management of the affair of the libraries is under the Director who is also the Secretary of the Board and Chief librarian. The Director is assisted by two Assistant Chief Librarians, one is for Zanzibar Public Library and another is in charge of Pemba Public Library.

Services offered by Zanzibar and Pemba Public Libraries

To meet the needs and demand of our customers, the libraries are different sections which are offering the following main services.

  • lending of books in both Adult library and Children library
  • Reference
  • Information through Newspapers, Magazines, Journals and Newsletters.
  • Research reports, bulletin and proceeding
  • Short time lending of most wanted materials/ special reserve.
  • Zanzibar Section
  • American Corner
  • Centralized Bibliographic service.
  • Internet services.

The recent library activities

With collaboration with local and international organizations and NGO's. Our libraries are conducting the following activities.

In Zanzibar Central Library, it has following activities

  • The library receives books donated by various donors and later distributes some of them to school libraries, community libraries and departmental documentation centres. Many books are donated by Book Aid International (UK), Book For Africa (USA), Book Abroad (UK) and International House Japan Japan).
  • Every Wednesday, the library invites two schools one is a primary and a secondary schools. The schools have to send pupils/students accompanied by a teacher. First they make a quick tour around the library before they were lectured on library uses, library regulation and how they can join the library. Story telling, singing, drawing or in quiz sessions follow later.

Students from Haile Selassie Secondary are briefed by Mr. Hassan

  • With collaboration with Book Aid International, we are establishing a Book Box Libraries to ten primary schools in North B District. Each school will get one book box, two mats and 400 children story books both in English and Swahili language. More schools will be added later after seen the success of the previous schools.
  • The library staff continues to offer their professional advice and help the departments and schools to establish new libraries in the premises. Among the libraries which obtained help recently from Zanzibar Library Services are ZAC documentation centre, Kizimbani Agricultural College and the DPP Office's library.
  • Two members of staff from ZLS are involved in teaching an Elementary Library Course at State University of Zanzibar (SUZA). The three months' course is under the institute of continuing education (ICE) of SUZA. Two batches of students on this course had graduated. Now ICE is in preparation to enroll the third batch of students. The course for the third intake is expected to start immediately after the month of Ramadan.

In Pemba Public Library, the following library activities takes place;

  • With collaboration with United States of America's embassy of Dar es Salaam, the library has established an American Corner. This is a mini library within the main library building equipped with furniture, computers, journals and books bought by the Embassy. Its main objective is to provide adequate information about United States of America and give people opportunity to search for other information. Mr. Mohamed Ali Said is currently the supervisor of the American Corner and conducts activities to boost American image to the people of Pemba. The corner has become the most popular section of the library as many people visit it to make use of free internet services.
  • At the same time the library conducts the weekly children programme every Friday afternoon. The day was selected as many children are free as they do not attend Quran classes Friday afternoon.


New Central Library: The New Central Library was officially opened on Thursday 18th March 2010 by President of Zanzibar Hon. Amani Abeid Karume. The celebration was attended by many people from both sides of the union including the Embassador of Japan in Tanzania, Hon. Hiroshi Nakagawa.

BAI visits: Three officers from Book Aid International of UK made one day visit in Zanzibar on 26th March, 2010. While they were here, they had opportunity to visit the schools with Book Box Libraries in Zanzibar and some other libraries. Among the libraries visited are the Zanzibar Central Library, Zanzibar Muslim Teacher Training College, Kiembe Samaki TC, Sebleni Primary School, Chumbuni Primary School, Bububu B Primary School and Open University of Tanzania, Beit el Ras.

Mr. Ali Amour Hassan Retires: The driver of Zanzibar Library Services Mr. Ali Amour Hassan has retired from the government services. Mr Hassan who is commonly known as Bw. Ali or nicknamed Kitega will be always remembered for his generosity, friendship and hardworking. Mr. Hamad Hassan a member of the ZLS Board officiated the farewell party launched specially for our beloved collegue.

New Member of Staff: Recently the Organization received three new members of staff who are transferred from other departments. The new members are;

  • Mr. Ali Mkali Haji, an accountant was transferred from Ministry of Finance and Economy to replace Mr Ali Hashim who went for further study in Arusha.
  • Ms. Awatif Suleiman Zubeir, a former primary school teacher from Pemba who followed her husband who resides in Zanzibar Town.
  • Mr. Mussa Ali Mussa an internal auditor who is transferred from Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Cooperatives and Environment.

A Digital Library Course at SLADS: In June 2010, Mr. Hamid R. Juma , Mr. Abdulla O. Masoud and Mr. Juma H. Juma attended a five days workshop on "Towards Environmental Data Sharing Using Open Source Software" at SLADS in Bagamoyo. The workshop was sponsored by UNESCO and facilitated by Mr. Africa J. Bwamkuu from (COSTECH), Tanzania and Mr. Amos Kujenga from (NUST) Zimbabwe. Participants were taught how to use Greenstone software and create their own digital library.

A Joint Bilateral Meeting Between MoEVT AND MoEVS: On 26th June 2010, the Senior officers from MoEVT attended a bilateral meeting in Bagamoyo. The meeting took place at ADEM and was officially opened by the Principal Secretary of MoEVS Prof. Khamis Dihenga. Amoung major topics discussed are appropriate measures to solve problems aroused in education sector and preparation for free movement of labour force in East Africa Community's member states.

The 2010/2011 Budget

The Minister Of Education And Vocational Training Hon. Haroun Ali Suleiman stated in his budget speech that his Ministry will start a construction of a modern library in Chake Chake, Pemba in this fiscal year. The new library will be built as an extension just behind the old library building. The old library building will also undergo a thorough renovation to allow more space and to be linked with the new library building.

This library building will undergo a thorough renovation to meet the required standard.