Sir Albert Cook Memorial Library Reopens after Renovation

It has been a rollercoaster journey for the Makerere University College of Health Sciences Library named after its founder Sir Dr. Albert Ruskin Cook (1870-1951), who established it in 1924. That is a whopping 94 years ago, and since then, the library has had to weather many storms occasioned by the overwhelming number of medical students that use it every day.

“This library was in a very sorry state; dilapidated, dust on the floor, chairs old and it really needed renovation,” said the Principal of College of Health Sciences, Prof. Charles Ibingira, on why he and his team lobbied to renovate and rehabilitate this special library that still houses an archive of Sir Dr. Cook’s original hand-written patient notes dating back to 1900.

About 2.3 billion shillings was initially raised which was used in the first phase of extending the library. The rest of the money was sourced by the College through grants and overheads, and was used on major structural repairs in and outside the library; tiling, construction of additional storage for books, repair of old furniture and buying new furniture, signage and acquisition of new computers.

Cohort ’77

At the reopening of the refurbished library on Friday, June 1, 2018, the Principal Prof. Ibingira thanked major partner Stanbic Bank represented by its Managing Director Mr. Patrick Mweheire: “What you have done is very important to our students and our country. Thank you for giving back, thank you very much for creating an excellent environment for research, study and publication.”

He equally thanked Koica (a South Korean NGO) that has pledged to purchase Teleconferencing training equipment worth 2500USD for the library as well facilitate training of students and researchers.

The Principal also praised ‘Cohort 77’ – the College alumnae particularly the medical graduates of the class of 1977 for the inspiration and for their generous contribution of modern desks each worth 450 USD. Dr. Jane Kavuma-Kayonga who talked on behalf of this group said they visited the medical school in 2017 when the extension of the library was ongoing and on learning that it needed 108 research desks/carrels to be functional, they offered to donate them.

“We are here to handover the first batch of the research desks,” she said. “We are ordinary people who gave from the heart because we felt that it was the right thing to do…by this simple gesture we are hopeful that other Classes of this great Medical School will be inspired to give of the little they have to the School.”

Challenges

The extension and renovation of Sir Albert Cook Memorial Library now makes it a 1st-Class facility that remains the best medical library in the region with over 55,000 hard copies and over 300 archives and a lot of E-resources. Although the sitting capacity of the library has been increased from 250 to about 600, “we must continue to plan for library expansion since the College has over 2200 students.”

Also, for over five years no new books have been added to the existing catalogue. The journals are still not enough and there are fewer computers for students who have no laptops or smart phones. Finally, there is urgent need to build a quality improvement system that checks on expansion, renovation and maintenance that is sustainable.