The College Library


The Polytechnic Library is one of the five Constituent college libraries under the University of Malawi libraries System. Others being Bunda College Library, Chancellor College Library, College of Medicine Library and Kamuzu College of Nursing Library ( Blantyre and Lilongwe Campuses). The Polytechnic Library support the teaching, learning and research in the University of Malawi and the whole country at large by providing the most up to date and relevant information.

Location and Opening

The Library is a two story building with a seating capacity of 494. It opens from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM. From Mondays to Fridays, from 8:00 AM to 12:00 Noon on Saturdays, and from 1:00 PM to 5:00 Pm on Sundays, during school sessions. During vacations it opens from 8:00 AM to 12:00 Noon and from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. It remains closed on public holidays.


Membership is open to all registered students of the University of Malawi, Pre-Medical students, All senior staff and their spouses of the university of Malawi, Members of the University Council and Members of the Junior Staff of the University of Malawi.


The Malawi polytechnic Library is headed by the College Librarian who is assisted by three Assistant Librarians: The Acquisitions Librarian, Periodicals Librarian and the Chief Cataloger. The College librarian also doubles as Readers’ Services librarian.

The Acquisitions Librarian is responsible for the purchases of library materials. He liaises with members of academic staff and library staff for suggestions of new book titles to be purchased. He organizes the book list and sends it to the procurement committee for tendering.

The Periodicals Librarian is responsible for establishing and maintaining subscriptions to periodicals in print and electronic formats; providing personal assistance and guidance in identifying, locating, and using periodicals; designing and conducting instructional sessions on how to use electronic journals and databases; evaluating the existing Periodicals collection by performing collection analysis and usage studies; promoting the Periodicals collection; establishing and maintaining contact with faculty, students, or other constituents to be sure the Periodicals collection is meeting their needs.

The Chief Cataloguer is responsible for processing all library materials, which is accessioning, cataloguing and classifying the materials. In accessioning every book is given a unique number using numbering machine. These numbers are in series. Cataloging is done by recording the bibliographic information of a book, such as the author, then title, place of publication, publisher, and date of publication. Other information includes number of pages and the subject contents of the book. After this process the book is then classified, that is assigning its subject content. A class mark, representing its subject content is written on the spine of the book. The Class mark is used for easy access of the books on the OPAC and also locating the books on the shelves.


The Polytechnic Library collection reflects the programmes offered at the Malawi Polytechnic. The resources are in both print and electronic formats. In print format there are books, periodicals, maps and charts.

The main collection of the books is located on the top floor. Readers can borrow these books for a period of two week, however the books may be returned before the due date. If the books are returned after the due date they attract a penalty of some money. On the same top floor there is a Reserve section or Short Loan section. Books on the short loan are available to readers for a period of two hours only. They are placed on the short loan on recommendations of either lecturers or library staff because they are on high demand and are on short supply.

Some resources in print format are located on the ground floor. There are current periodicals, bound periodicals, reference books and malawiana resources. Malawiana resources are books written by Malawians or they talk about Malawi. Malawiana materials are behind the main issue counter. They are on restricted access. Readers who would like to access them put their requests to the library officers manning the main issue counter and they retrieve for them. Consultation of malawiana materials is within the library.

Refeerence books are shelved separately from the general books. Examples of reference books are: Dictionaries, atlases, encyclopedias, handbooks, and yearbooks just to mention a few. These books are also not allowed to go out, consultation is within the library. Next to the reference section is the bound periodicals section. After receiving all the issue numbers of a particular journal volume they are sent to the bindery to be bound into one volume and is shelved in this section. Like the malawiana materials bound periodicals are never taken out of the library.

On the ground floor, there is also a section for current copies of periodicals. When the library receives an issue number of a journal volume it is displayed here on the racks. Adjacent to the racks are tables where students read the local daily and weekend papers.

In electronic formats there are microfilms, microfiche, slides, video tapes, audio cassettes, compact discs. These resources are located in the Audio Visual Department and their usage is within the library. The library also subscribes to electronic databases which are accessed through data bases like African Journals On-Line (AJOL), EbscoHost, Emerald, Google Scholar, Blackwell Publishing, Blackwell Synergy, Oxford Journals and many more. The library has twenty computers connected to the internet for students to enable them have access to the electronic journals, electronic information and the internet. These services are offered at a small fee to enable the library maintain the services.

Currently the library is building its own databases by digitizing some resources with the use of the greenstone software. Digitization is the process of converting information which is in analog format like text, photographs voices and others into a digital format. In this format, information is organized into discrete units of data that can be separately addressed. This is the binary data that computers and many devices with computing capacity such as digital cameras and digital hearing aids can process. Text and images can be digitized similarly: a scanner captures an image which may be an image of text and converts it to an image file, such as a bitmap.

Digitizing information makes it easier to preserve, access, and share. For example, an original historical document may only be accessible to people who visit its physical location, but if the document content is digitized, it can be made available to people worldwide. There is a growing trend towards digitization of historically and culturally significant data.

Greenstone: It is a suite of software for building and distributing library collections. It provides a new way of organizing information and publishing it on the internet or on CD-ROM. It is an open-source software produced by the New Zealand Digital Library Project at the University of Waikato. The Greenstone software aims to empower users, particularly in universities, libraries, and other public service institutions, to build their own digital libraries. It is believed that the software will assist the effective deployment of digital libraries to share information and place it in the public domain.

Currently the Polytechnic Library is working on six databases by using the Greenstone software:

  • Gender- for all publications related to gender issues in Malawi;
  • Water and Sanitation; Transport;
  • HIV and AIDS,
  • Unima e-prints (journal and conference papers by University of Malawi members of Staff); and
  • The University of Malawi Past Papers.

There is also a Malawiana data base with the use CDS/SIS software. It is an advanced non-numerical information storage and retrieval software developed by UNESCO since 1985 to satisfy the need expressed by many institutions, especially in the developing countries to be able to streamline their information processing activities by using modern but relatively inexpensive technologies.