Supporting mobile libraries
Many of the communities we support lack the funds or the space to build a permanent library, but we believe this should not be a barrier to readers accessing and enjoying books.
Some of our partners, such as Kenya National Library Service, support nomadic communities who generally do not build permanent structures but still need the benefits of a library service. We also provide books for mobile library services that reach schools in remote regions which have no school or community libraries.
In the remotest communities, which lack paved roads, even a motor vehicle may struggle to get through. Our partner organisations don’t let this prevent them getting books to people, however, and have come up with some imaginative and innovative means of overcoming these difficulties.
Mobile libraries are a great way to get books to individuals and communities who, because of the areas they live in, or because of a lack of resource or funding, cannot build a permanent library. We have been supporting a range of mobile library services in sub-Saharan Africa for many years.
Mobile library services in action
Book Aid International provides books to Ethiopia Reads, an NGO that works to increase literacy in Ethiopia by building schools, training educators, and “planting” libraries. In their Horse-Powered Library project, a teacher rides on horseback to rural communities, carrying books and stories to read to village children and teach them basic literacy and numeracy. Over 1,000 children in hard to reach communities have benefitted from this project to date.
Since 1985, Kenya National Library Service (knls) has employed a fleet of camels to reach the most remote, nomadic communities in arid rural regions of North Eastern Kenya. The camels carry books (many donated by Book Aid International) in specially made boxes, plus tents and mats for children in their temporary reading spaces.
Since 2008 we have been working in partnership with the Forum for African Women Educationalist of Zambia providing over 50,000 secondary school level books to stock their fleet of four mobile library trucks. The trucks visit secondary schools in the Copperbelt region, creating access to much-needed books for schools with no permanent library collection.
The Rural Libraries Resource and Development Programme (RLRDP) operates a variety of innovative mobile library services in areas inaccessible to motor vehicles. In the Nkayi District of Matebeleland North, donkey power enables four special cart libraries, stocked with books from Book Aid International, to reach remote areas where people would otherwise have to travel many miles to find a library.
In the Nyanga District of the Eastern Highlands region, RLRDP delivers a book box service by bicycle. The book boxes are lent to rural libraries for one month, after which they are collected and replaced with fresh books. This scheme enables remote libraries to refresh their stock regularly and to provide a variety of reading materials for their communities.