Describe your idea in fewer than 50 words.
We support small community libraries in rural areas through long-term commitment to librarian salaries, training and library programming.
What makes your idea unique?
Nobody else is doing it! Lots of groups support building libraries, or they ship books, or they have one-off library workshops, but we offer a long-term commitment to developing small libraries.
Our five key elements:
1) Emphasis on long-term management of small community libraries. We invest in a local team of librarians and coordinating staff so that librarians are constantly improving their services. Librarians largely come from the villages themselves, and so need a lot of guidance and support to be effective. In Uganda we established the Uganda Community Libraries Association (UgCLA)
2) Emphasis on libraries that suit the needs of small communities. We typically refurbish an existing building, and emphasize a low-cost ($5,000) refurbishment of a one-room structure stocked with 1,000-2,000 books, and open 20 hours a week with a paid librarian. A typical village does not need much more than this to help first gneerations of literate students and graduates.
3) Emphasis on reading materials that respond to requests of readers in villages (African novels, picture books set in Africa, bande dessinees in Africa). We strive to purchase books from local and regional publshers, and have begun to create programs to create books ourselves that will be in high demand by readers in villages.
4) Focus on libraries. We are not an "integrated" development organization. Our mission is to promote libraries and reading, and we try to stay focused on that purpose. Specifically, we do not believe in tying libraries to unrelated income-generating projects.
5) Volunteers and networks. Our major emphasis is on embedding libraries into a dense network of volunteers and donors who can help. To that end we use social networking sites (like Ning) and blogging and frequent visitors and volunteers to keep people in touch.
What is your area of work? (Please check as many as apply.)
Children & Youth
, Girls' development
, Adult education
, Rural development
, Public Participation & Engagement
What impact have you had?
Libraries see hundreds of visits per month, and thousands of books are read over the year, in villages where typically only a handful of books circulate. A randomized experiment found that summer reading programs improved test scores.
Describe the primary problem(s) that your project is addressing.
Lack of access of rural persons (students and adults) to reading material (books and newspapers).
Describe the steps that your organization is taking to make your project successful.
We focus on rigorous reporting and accountability by library staff.