Monday, 6 July 2009

A brief summary of mobile library services in Kenya

Kenya has nomadic populations and poor road infrastructure. The poor transport network makes it difficult for people to visit a static library. The Kenyan National Library Service was formed in 1969. By 2002 the mobile service was eight bookmobiles that were becoming unreliable and expensive to repair, one motorbike book box system which was community ran in central Kenya, and two camels providing a service to the pastoral nomads in the north east of the country (Atuti 2002) The mobile service has been assessed a number of times with the conclusion that the book box and camel services are cost effective. Masha Hamilton, an American novelist based a book on her experiences with the Camel Library Service and has since set up a system of book donations to the service. There are presently 13 camels serving a wider region in the north east of Kenya (Hamilton 2009). The most important thing about quoting this service is that it is out reach in the extreme, people thought the nomads were unreachable, but they are not (Atuti and Ikoja-Odongo 1999). The goal of the mobile library service is for the “Enrichment of inconvenienced user communities”. The six objectives start with “To promote literacy and reading recovery programs in rural areas”. The service has been researched thoroughly and has been found to be “feasible” (Atuti 2002).

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Tales of the Arabian Nights

In 2006 a literacy project from Lahore in Pakistan won the Ibby Asahi Award. (see It started as a static book bus in Lahore which was the first children's library in Pakistan by Basarat Kazim. The reason was not to simply distrubute books to children more deprived than we can imagine, but to teach them to read in a relaxed enjoyable way. The bookbus was called "Alif Laila", which means "the Arabian Nights". It became so successful that it spawned literacy projects that were used in schools and a purpose built children's library (de Silva, 2008). It has come full circle and now the project runs a children's mobile library called "the Storyteller" which travels the valleys of pakistan carrying books and stories (Burg 2008).

The cuban mobile library

I have already mentioned the importance that Che Guevara attached to having a literate population. Last year and American Librarian, Dana Lubow, took a fully stocked bookmobile to Cuba to donate to Granma's "1868 provincial library". It travelled through America and Mexico, reaching Havana at August 17th, 2008. The mobile library and it's contents had been donated by American citizens. By January 2009 it was operating in Granma province and it's rural locations. Dana's Blog has a number of photographs, take a look for yourself at

The donation of the bookmobile came about because of strong links between a group of American Librarians and Cuban librarians. the bookmobile was not needed by the librarians to improve the literacy of the nation, there is a high literacy rate in Cuba, the problem is because of the economic sanctions that the US has with Cuba. Nothing can be imported from America so many of the existing books were getting well worn. The librarians wanted books and a method of distributing them to highly literate rural communities that were thirsty for more literature. They are reported as saying that the bookmobile "was a welcome addition to the Cuban librarians’ arsenal of professional tools to promote literacy, reading, education, self-improvement and community development throughout the countryside and into remote rural areas where municipal libraries cannot always regularly reach".