Build a library for 500,000 Kenyans (Tranche 1)


For those of you who have joined us on our quest to get a fully stocked, modern library in Busia, Kenya, you know the trials and tribulations we have faced.  It’s been SIX years since we started on this journey, and we’ve had ups and downs along the way.  We spent two years investigating how to ethically manage a property rights dispute over the library plot of land.  We then spent another year developing the library plans—coordinating between national government (Kenya National Library Service), local government, community groups, and local architects to come up with a building that can serve the needs of the community.  When that was done, Kenya’s new constitution, which changes the administrative structure for managing the library in the country, put the project on hold. With our Kenyan partners, we have been advocating with new local government—including the district Governor and local MPs, and building the relationship between the new government and KNLS.  

 It is therefore our great pleasure to announce that Kenya National Library Service is taking the lead on building from here on out.  They will build the new Busia Community Library in close collaboration with Maria’s Libraries and the new district government.  This means that much of the funding will come from government, and that the building will be a model for the country on collaboration between national government and the new local government structures. 

 Could we have done this faster?

Yes, absolutely.  With the money we’ve raised so far, we could have constructed a small building on a different plot of land that our community partners, with funding from Maria’s Libraries, could manage on their own.  This, however, would have been a library isolated from public services and networks, things we believe to be essential for any library's sustainability.  Creating programs and institutions that are sustainable is central to our mission.

 Why are we glad we waited?

A library is an infrastructure project, meant to serve not only the community of today, but also the community of 50 years from now, of 100 years from now, of 200 years from now.  Six years to build a building that is imbedded in the public services of the country, and that can continue to serve the Busia community as it grows, seems like a good deal.  We believe this is what sustainable development is all about.

 What is our role now?

We still need your support! We’re thrilled that KNLS is taking the lead, but we will remain closely involved to insure that the building meets all of our specifications.  In particular, we will be providing funds to support many of the innovative elements of the building—this includes the citizen science building, as well as a localized source of green electricity.   

 We could not have gotten this far without your support!  You can help us turn this project into something which is not only a model for the country, but a model for library projects globally through your continued support of this project.

Busia's first photo exhibit!

Dear Friends of Maria’s Libraries,

When I first got to Busia in February as Maria’s Libraries brand new project manager, various members of the Busia community asked me when construction on the new library would begin. Recently, the questions have shifted to “What can I do to help". The Busia Community Library’s recently established local fundraising committee had a busy summer developing  local funding streams, including:

Hosting Busia’s first ever photo exhibit: The Busia Community Library, with support from two interns from Maria’s Libraries and the fundraising committee, successfully organized a photo exhibit to publicize the activities of the library, raise funds and register new members in August. The committee raised over 6,000 KES, with roughly 300 visitors attending the event.

Income generating activities: The Busia Community Library has been renting out its projector to individuals and groups for a fixed price. This helps to cover some of the operational costs of the library and markets the library as an essential resource center in Busia.

And we have more activities planned!

Matching grant: With your help, we hope to offer the Busia Community Library Fundraising committee a matching grant. Whatever we are able to raise will be offered as incentive for the committee to continue to be innovative in developing local fundraising teams. 

Accessing government funds: While the community has proven its ability to fundraise for operational costs, we are working with the County government and KNLS to unlock government funds to construct the new library.

We continue to be inspired and motivated by our partners in Busia, and we hope that you will help us inspire and motivate them by providing the funds for a matching grant.  All funds raised through Global Giving will go to the construction of the Busia Community Library, while funds raised by our partners in Busia will go towards operational costs. Our goal is to begin construction on the new library in early 2014. This would not be possible without your support! We sincerely appreciate your continued contributions!



Students checking out the photos!
Students checking out the photos!

Dear Friends of Maria’s Libraries,

Each Saturday, the library fills up with visitors—children wishing to look at books or use iPads, university students looking for a quiet place to study, adults looking to browse the internet or read the newspaper.

The good news is that these users are increasing each month, as the library becomes more known and its services are more relevant to community needs.

The bad news is that the library in its current space can no longer fit them. On school holidays, 20-30 children sit in the library lawn, waiting for there to be room for them to enter. We’re thrilled that the library means so much to them. And we’re itching to get started on the new building.

Currently, the Busia Community Library is working on a number of fronts to fundraise for construction. This includes lobbying the County and National Government for funding, screening films at schools and Churches and advertising via piki pikis (motorcycle taxis). Additionally, the Library hopes to increase awareness and membership rates with the implementation of these activities.

We’re almost ready to start on the first phase of building, thanks to your support and the support of others across the US and Kenya. You can help!  As ever, we greatly appreciate your contribution.


PS. For those of you interested in Kenya’s recent decentralization, and how it relates to libraries, stay tuned for upcoming blog posts on our experience in Kenya.  We’d also love you hear your experiences!  Feel free to email with tales of decentralization. . .

Dear Friends of Maria’s Libraries,

Greetings from Busia! I’m the newest member of the ML team, Sofia Mussa.  I’m based in Busia, to help support the community in getting some of these projects off the ground.  I’m very excited to be joining the Maria’s Libraries team for the next few months.

We really appreciate your continued support! We are continuing to fundraise, locally and in the US, for the construction of a modern, state of the art library in Busia. At the moment we are moving forward with plans to build one of the smaller buildings on the library site, a two room Citizen Science Center. The concept behind the Citizen Science Center is creating a public, innovative space where residents of the community can access scientific equipment and use it according to their own interests. This may include schools coming in for science projects or individuals pursuing their love of astronomy. The Citizen Science Center will be the first step on the road to path to the main library!

We are looking forward to starting construction. And we will be sure to keep you updated!



Dear Friends of the Busia County Library,

Thank you all for the amazing support over the past few weeks!  In our most recent campaign on June 13, we raised over 2,000 dollars towards the building of the Busia County Library, and another 1,000 dollars for programming.  We were overwhelmed with the support, and our partners in Busia have asked us to convey their sincerest asante sanas as well  I'm also pleased to announce the winner of the art raffle was Claire Fontaine.  We'd love your feedback on the art raffle-- if this is something you'd like to see more of in the future, please let us know!

Our next steps here in New York are to continue our fundraising push.  In early October, we'll be holding our Breaking Ground Gala event, so watch this space for more information on that.   In early July, our New York group of volunteer architects will be convening to go over the existing library plans in conjunction with our colleagues in Busia.  We're so close to getting these drawing finalized, we can taste it!

In the meantime, we're still offering state of the art programs in the library's existing space.  Many thanks to EIFL for funding a children's reference library on tablet computers.  We'll be holding a tented event to showcase the new materials on the library's plot of land in mid-July, bringing together teachers, students, and librarians from all over Western Kenya to learn and play with the new resources at the library.

As ever, our communication lines are wide open.  Get in touch with ideas, questions, comments. 

Many warm wishes,

Eva and Ariel,


About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.

donate now:

Retired Project

This project is no longer accepting donations.

Still want to help?
Find another project in Kenya or in Economic Development that needs your help.


Project Leader

Ariel Schwartz

Austin, TX United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Build a library for 500,000 Kenyans (Tranche 1)