History

Over 50 years

30 million books sent – 516,138 in 2011 alone

More than 2,000 libraries supported annually, reaching at least 2.5 million people every single year

Book Aid International increases access to books and supports literacy, education and development in sub-Saharan Africa. Millions of people in small communities, towns, cities, refugee camps, prisons, schools and universities use the books we send.

Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly

Book Aid International was founded in 1954 by Lady Hermione Ranfurly, as the Ranfurly Library Service. At the time, her husband was the Governor General of the Bahamas and whilst living there Lady Ranfurly saw first-hand the desperate shortage of books for children there. She motivated friends and contacts in the UK to provide her with surplus books and distributed them to schools and libraries. Lady Ranfurly continued her efforts upon her return to the UK, and by the early 1960s she had gained enough support to expand the scheme to other parts of the developing world, supporting mainly national library services. Over the next 50 years, nearly 30 million books were provided to schools, universities, and public and community libraries in the developing world.

In recognition of the changing and expanding nature of our work, in 1994 we changed our name to Book Aid International. Our work has increasingly focused on support for libraries of all kinds in sub-Saharan Africa, and in 2007 we decided to concentrate our work in 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and we also have a small programme in the Occupied Territories of Palestine.

Today, we send around half a million brand new books to at least 2,000 partner libraries every year.  Each book we send will reach at least five readers so at least 2.5 million people are reading, enjoying and learning from books we’ve sent every single year. In addition to our book provision work, we have a range of projects including ones supporting improvements in children’s services, services for health care providers, community and school libraries, and have supported a range of mobile library services – from trucks to camels!

Book Aid International has a long history. We have changed and developed to meet new challenges and we are a leading agency in our field. Books are crucial for quality education, raising literacy, providing information and underpinning development. Our work wouldn’t be possible without the enormous support from the UK book trade, and the supporters and donors who make it possible.

But these are uncertain times, with demand for books increasing despite the recession and technological change in the West. There is still a thirst for the knowledge, information and enjoyment that books can bring, whatever the format, and Book Aid International will continue to support libraries and librarians to change lives through books. Because books change lives.

The Ranfurly Library Service was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee (number 880754, London) on 3 June 1966 and was registered as a charity (number 313869) on 4 July 1966. The company name was changed to Book Aid International on 1 January 1994.

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