The first modern library at the University of Liberia was opened in the early 1960s, housed in the Cassel Building built during the administration of Dr. Rocheforte L. Weeks, first Liberian UL President.
Now his daughter, Dr. Ophelia Weeks, a brain scientist who was only seven when her father, age 35 in 1959, was called by President W.V.S. Tubman to head the university, has begun developing a digital library on UL’s Fendall campus. This is a big jump from the old books stocked in the library in the Cassell Building, initially headed by one of Liberia’s first professionally trained librarians, Dr. Charles Armstrong.
We frankly do not know from where and how Dr. Ophelia Weeks found this organization, the Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia (TDEL), which most Liberians know nothing about. But this is the organization that spearheaded, along with President Joseph Jenkins Roberts, and funded the founding of Liberia College (LC), opened in 1862. Former President Roberts became LC’s first President.
And how did the Daily Observer reporter, William Harmon, who wrote the story on the UL’s new Digital Library, find the background information on this little known, even obscure NGO—TDEL—that was created as far back as the 1850s? Reporter Harmon, assisted by the Daily Observer’s new Managing Director, Bai Sama Best, found the information on the Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia (TDEL) in the Observer’s library, housed in its new facilities at ELWA Junction, Paynesville. How? Because Bai Best knew that the Observer Library had in its resourceful collection a copy of the Historical Dictionary of Liberia, authored and published in 2001 by three of Liberia’s eminent historical scholars, Dr. D. Elwood Dunn, Dr. Amos J. Beyan and Dr. Carl Patrick Burrowes. This invaluable historical work included a brief but comprehensive piece on “Liberia College, see University of Liberia.”
This alone is a vivid demonstration of the importance of libraries. We praise God that the Observer founders, Kenneth and Mae Gene Best, made it a point at the very inception of the newspaper (1981) to insist on including a library—the first Liberian newspaper to have one. Never mind the Observer Library was thrice destroyed by fire during the regime of President Samuel K. Doe, the last of which occurred in September 1990, when the Observer building was completely destroyed with hand grenades and fire. But the newspaper’s library was reestablished immediately upon the return of the Best family from 15 years of exile and the relaunching of the newspaper in 2005.
UL President Ophelia Weeks is to be highly commended for taking this great initiative of rediscovering this relatively unknown but important institution, TDEL, which is thankfully still in existence and has now been able to reach out in such a substantial way to create and establish a digital library at UL.
This immediately puts UL in the league of some of the world’s great universities, most of which are already equipped with digital libraries. TDEL’s President and Trustee, Dr. John Archibald, put it rightly when he declared that the students of UL “now have the world at their fingertips.” Why? Because libraries stocked with thousands of books are today fast becoming a thing of the past. Most modern libraries now have computers which have ready access to the Internet, where one can find any book on any subject, and source the whole book for all the information it provides. Today in Liberia, even high school students are demanding to have smart phones because these students say that is how they can do research for their assignments and homework. So if our high school students are now going digital in their school work, how much more university scholars?
We call on all universities in Liberia—and all elementary and high schools, too—to emulate the UL example of going digital. This will facilitate a BIG boost to learning.
One other advantage UL, according to President Ophelia Weeks, derives from this ultra-modern library is that it will modernize and simplify the university’s registration process, which has over many decades been fraught with inefficiency, slowness and fraud.
We pray that this new digital library at UL will solve all these problems and, most important of all, intensify the learning capacity of UL students.
We urge Cuttington and all other Liberian universities to take serious note of and emulate UL’s great example.