The morning begins with a 20 minute walk to Bulawayo Polytechnic which has many well-used BAI books. Next stop is the National Free Library, an old library with an old collection including leather bounded volumes of Punch going back into the 1800’s and 10 volumes of an 1890s series of books on war in the Crimea. The library is a research library but it’s large collection has very few up-to-date books. There are two glass cabinets containing modern books, mostly from BAI. Three tourism students from the polytechnic are busy looking for books on purchasing management and find one – they’ll have to share.
The rest of the day is spent visiting two hospitals – the United Bulawayo Hospital and Mpilo Hospital. Both have schools of nursing. The first has two small libraries, one for staff and one for nurses, with some BAI books in evidence. The second has a larger more impressive library and is run as an outpost of the University of Zimbabwe which has a medical programme at the library. The librarian is impressive and talks about encouraging the students and their lecturers to use the library. This helped the midwifery students all pass their last exams. Doctors come for information to help treat patients and sometimes this is available on the internet (when it is working and not too slow), and sometimes in textbooks, even if they are old. The librarian assists and guides the doctors and this can make a real difference to whether a patient improves or not, and occasionally it is a matter of life and death. The librarian looks forward to hearing how the doctors get on even though the news may not always be good (and there are few drugs available to treat patients).
There are quite a number of BAI books but the numbers are limited , and students steal books and pages. A new security system has been installed to combat this and most key textbooks, including many from BAI, are kept on reserve near the librarian’s desk. There are 600 nursing and midwifery students and it is hoped that many will stay in Zimbabwe but many are likely to head for South Africa, Botswana or the NHS. The positive is that their remittances back home are also vital to many.