“Coffin” and “graveyard” are expressions that have been used to describe the main library of the University of Yaounde. Other somber names have also been used to refer to the library of the Department of English of the same institution. In 2006, there were frighteningly obvious signs of the fall of this room of knowledge; the dilapidated once glorious shelves were now marked by aging and neglected books, some of which had withered faster than usual. It was sad to notice how the books shrunk in number.
In 2019, when I visited the library, what was left of the old, worn out and dusty books were dumped on deserted shelves in a room that then served as a chit-chat and a temporary lecture hall. The shelves were stuffed with old books; remnants of past glory of the 80s and early 90s, I suppose.
Some months ago, I reluctantly went to the library after a friend recommended a couple of dictionaries and encyclopedias. To my greatest surprise, when I got there, I was greeted by the dazzling view of an astonishing and perhaps unfathomable transformation. There were new shelves, new books and new tables and seats. The organisation was a hundred folds better and the room indeed looked like a place where one could comfortably read or study.
The new face of the library is probably not going to mean much to some students new to the institution or department but, if you saw how the faces of former students beamed as they perceived the change, then you would understand this modest reading space has indeed received a tremendous boost and face lift. The impact it is going to have on the lives of students cannot be overemphasised.
The efforts made to revive the library are laudable and initiatives like this should be encouraged. The resurrection was orchestrated by ex-students of the 1991 batch of the Department of English some of whom are Prof. Bonaventure Sala and Prof. George Ewane, both lecturers in the department. It’s a beautiful reminder that we should make the world better than it was yesterday.