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Community libraries

Community libraries are commonly set up by individual community members or by groups such as farmers, students, NGOs, or by religious organisations. They range from tiny single-roomed structures built from local materials through to refurbished shipping containers and multi-storey brick buildings. They are often located where there is no public library and are found everywhere from remote rural areas to the informal settlements of major cities.

Book Aid International supports a large number of community libraries across Africa by sending them a wide range of brand new, carefully selected books each year.

These libraries are often dynamic, vibrant and exciting places, staffed by volunteers, and are driven by a local vision to improve the lives of their communities by providing a space for reading and study. There is invariably a strong sense of ownership in community libraries.

They are also very often more than libraries, too, offering much-needed spaces for a range of community activities including women’s literacy classes, cultural and artistic activities and health promotion.

The need for our books

Community libraries are not usually government-funded and they often struggle for funds. They play a crucial role in their communities as they are often the only place that their users can access books to further their education and learn skills for life but many community libraries have very little budget to buy books.

Our work with community libraries

Uganda Community Libraries Association

Although Uganda has a national network of libraries not all areas are served and many more remote communities have no access to books. Uganda Community Libraries Association (UgCLA) was set up in 2007 and now runs a network of around 100 libraries across the country. UgCLA not only provides access to books and a safe space in which people can read and learn, but also runs projects that respond to specific local needs, such as youth-focused projects on sexual health and literacy projects for parents in rural areas. We have supplied books to UgCLA since 2011.

Community libraries in Eritrea

There are 39 community libraries in Eritrea, which are largely independent institutions, established and run by their own community, although the government often provides the buildings. They are largely run by volunteers, who not only act as librarians but also raise funds to keep the library going. Their determination and passion often means these libraries are engaging, responsive and most importantly, busy. We support these community libraries with brand new, carefully selected books each year.

Community libraries in Mathare slum, Kenya

The Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) is a community development organisation seeking to improve the quality of life within the slums of Mathare, Nairobi. MYSA runs four libraries and Book Aid International has been proud to supply books to them since 2003. The libraries were set up to respond to the needs of the children in Mathare, who not only had little or no access to books, but also needed safe spaces in which to read, play and learn when not in school. The libraries are the only libraries in the slum communities and are the only access to books for many of Mathare’s inhabitants. 

Book Aid International equipped the library with the books I needed to get me to where I am today – in a position to give back to my community. SAMUEL'S STORY

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