The University of Fort Hare, spread over three campuses, has experienced tremendous growth since the three libraries serving these campuses were built. The Alice campus Library was built in the early 1970s, and since then the student and academic populations have increased sixfold.
Identified as the University of Fort Hare Alice Library Centenary Project, our aim is to complete this project by 2016, our 100th anniversary. An accurate estimate to see this vision through has been calculated at R100 million.
With the ever-increasing pace in technological advances and new approaches in the use of a university library, the library does not just need to grow in size, but needs to be upgraded and modernised to be a socially interactive and educational space for the 21st century.
The library has always been, and continues to be, the core of any university, and is ultimately the locus of the whole body of knowledge that supports academic endeavour. In recent years, university libraries have undergone a major revolution.
Although they still house and make accessible information in books, they have expanded their roles to become holistic information exchanges or conduits, with the internet and intranet linking students and researchers to the more advanced knowledge sources, be they in paper or electronic form.
Our existing library has fallen behind in providing our students with the resources and space needed to meet their educational needs. National norms recommend university libraries provide seating for at least 40% of the total number of students. Currently, Fort Hare Alice library is able to provide seating for 595 students, a shortfall of 1805 seats for 2011.
The proposed extension and upgrading of the currently inadequate Alice campus library facilities will have an enormous impact on the quality of teaching and learning at the University of Fort Hare, and of the graduates it produces
The successful implementation of the University of Fort Hare Alice Library Centenary Project is crucial to providing excellence in education and developing skills that are competitive and relevant to current and future societal demands, both in our region and in the wider context of South Africa and the continent.
The university itself will benefit by being able to stand on an equal footing with its peer academic institutions in technological advances and access to knowledge. The costs of such a vital undertaking are substantial.
We appeal to all who acknowledge the importance of education in uplifting communities and developing a stable and sustainable future to help us realise our vision for Fort Hare and for the future generations of students it will serve.