Special report from Uganda : day 5

Uganda Friday 27th May:

An early morning stop at Tororo Public Library where Book Aid International secondary books in the sciences have been a bit battered. Fiction has been read a little and I notice Ian McEwan’s Atonement, has been borrowed four times. The children’s section is small and the librarian tells me that she puts mats outside the library for children to read on. However, she is on her own with just one assistant so it is difficult to organise many activities, as much as she would like to.

Busitera University is a fairly new public university with a small library and many book donations, including 500 from Book Aid International. Most though are from an American book donation agency and a well known international church-based charity. Although some of these donations are good there are many old copies, including some second-hand sociology titles from the 1970s (for a university offering mainly engineering courses) and too many copies of some titles. Originally an agricultural college, there are many battered and disintegrating copies of a 1930’s book on tractors!

The Mayor of Busia, a border town half in Uganda and half in Kenya, tells me of the town’s new library – ‘I am proud of my library – I got my job because I read newspapers in a library’.

The town has provided a small room so far, and the library is run by an enthusiastic volunteer who received some basic training at the National Library. I talk to a teacher who is busy taking notes from Book Aid International geography books. He tells me that ‘every working hour when I’m free, I come to the library’ though complains that ‘there are times when you come and cannot find a seat’. He visits the library to prepare for classes and is also putting together his own pamphlet.

With the tannoy from the local mosque blaring out in the background, I notice Teach Yourself Islam is looking well read.

Finally, we visit Bugiri Community Library, a small community library set up a couple of years ago by a young man called Michael Ogottu, initially with just a few books provided by himself and a friend.

It’s a simple library situated in a small room on the street that might normally be a shop kiosk. The local children are excited to see us. With support from the Uganda Community Libraries Association, and some books from Book Aid International, the library now has filled its one shelving unit, made from a tree Michael planted many years ago when he was a school student. He says the shelves looked so big until the Book Aid International books arrived but now he’ll need to cut down another of his trees to make more shelves! Picture books are popular and Michael also takes books out into the community and to schools. It’s a small library and a small start but the dedication is great and the library is beginning to make a difference in a town where the town council is indifferent to libraries.

Then it’s back through Mbale and Jinja to Kampala, where we sit in traffic as darkness descends and we gradually make it back to homes and hotel.


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