Education  Ghana Project #29847

Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans

by The African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA
Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans
Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans
Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans
Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans
Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans
Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans
Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans
Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans
Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans
Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans
Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans
Bring innovative libraries to 100,000 Africans

 

In 2018, a global report found that over 4 billion people around the world are now using the internet. The latest data also shows that nearly a quarter of a billion new users came online for the first time in 2017. Africa has seen the fastest growth rates, with the number of internet users across the continent rising over 20% year on year. However, many people, particularly in rural and urban poor communities, are getting left behind.

 

Shanitha, a librarian at the Bessie Head Library in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, saw that many members of her community not only lacked online access, but the skills to navigate the digital world. She knew that for the scholars, workers, entrepreneurs, or retirees of her community, digital literacy would be the answer to helping them become more productive members of society. As Shanitha worked for the municipality’s main public library, she realized she could help empower surrounding poor communities to thrive in the digital world. She was a participant of AfLIA’s International Network of Emerging Library Innovators Sub-Saharan Africa (INELI-SSAf) program. In it she sharpened her skills in community needs analysis!   She ably created a service that offered underprivileged communities with access to digital training. 

 

The program, in collaboration with the library’s Internet Café staff, offers training in basic computer skills in Microsoft Office, email correspondence, and writing resumes. Library users even learned how to design business cards and fliers.  Thanks to the digital training, community members were able to find markets for their crops and products, gain access to government programs, search for jobs, learn new skills online, research important health issues, and even stay in touch with distant families and friends. The training has even allowed professionals to improve their work, such as educators who now use Microsoft Excel to compute and organize their students’ grades.

 

Shanitha’s program has been so successful that it has captured the interest of local ward councillors, NGOs, and teachers who are willing to support her initiative. Since its launch, the library has helped train 400 people to easily access information to improve their lives and adapt to the changing world.

Thank you for contributions that make it possible for Shanita to change lives!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Library users accessing the Mini-Library materials
Library users accessing the Mini-Library materials

“We were unable to read. There were no facilities that had our reading equipment,” says Tsakani, a 39-year-old blind woman from Hammanskraal, Pretoria, when asked of her experience with reading. “We were stressed thinking that to be blind was a problematic situation to be in. Life without education or knowledge is meaningless.”

For the sighted, reading is something that many take for granted. Books are almost mundane in their accessibility, and many can overlook how they play such an important role in our lives. Reading provides opportunities to develop new learning skills, boosts mental well-being, and helps in overcoming daily challenges. For the blind and visually impaired, however, obtaining a book in a format they can access is a life-long struggle. On average, a blind person in South Africa waits a minimum of 3 months for a single print copy to be converted into audio, and a minimum of 6 months for that same copy to be converted into Braille.

This struggle is recognized by Anele, a librarian at the South African Library for the Blind (SALB). A graduate of the International Network of Emerging Library Innovators - Sub-Saharan Africa (INELI-SSAf) program, Anele learned to innovate library services to address the needs of his community. Joining SALB in 2016, he utilized what he learned from INELI-SSAf to bridge the gap between the blind and accessible library services, leading a “Mini-Library” project created by SALB. Through this project, Anele helped create spaces in public libraries where the visually impaired could access materials such as audio books and Braille machines.

Tsakani, upon learning of the project, was most excited about the Victor Reader, a media player that can convert digital e-books into audio. A leader at the Mighty God Loving Center, an organization that provides skills development training to the visually impaired, Tsakani has found the Mini-Library to be a vital tool in her mission to aid her fellow blind. “The Mini-Library has made a big impact in my life,” expresses Tsakani. “It gave me hope that I can be a better person. Even my passion for helping other visually impaired people has become a reality, as now I can help them through this library.”

This impact is two-fold: Prior to joining SALB, Anele had little experience working with the blind. Being involved in the Mini-Library project has not only made him more aware of the challenges the blind face in accessing library and information services, but has also taught him greater consideration, empathy, and a passion for helping others. “Being in this project, I am part of the blind society,” Anele states. “I play my part to advocate to provinces for funding in order to expand [the Mini-Library] to more public libraries in South Africa.”

Thanks to SALB and its partnership with the South African Government, there are now 150 Mini-Libraries across the country, transforming the lives of thousands. “Coming out of an isolated space and engaging with new people in the library brought me a sense of existence,” says one user, expressing a newfound love of their community library. “Now I feel like I belong because I spend most of my time at the library.”  

Through your generosity, African librarians are finding new ways to make their libraries more inclusive and welcoming spaces for everyone. With your continued support, we hope to empower more people like Tsakani and transform the lives of Africans, one library at a time.

Visually impaired twins are now able to read
Visually impaired twins are now able to read
The Mini-Library at the Suurman Community Library
The Mini-Library at the Suurman Community Library

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Kalaba reading a story for young library users
Kalaba reading a story for young library users

“What can I do to make my community a better place?” This is a question that Kalaba, a Provincial Librarian from Zambia, struggled to answer. She always dreamed of serving her community but didn’t feel confident enough to face them due to her limited experience, which so far had just been “routine works like cataloguing and classification” of books in her libraries.

When her previous lecturer sent her an advertisement for INELI-SSAf’s first cohort, Kalaba got excited as she saw it as an opportunity to explore new things. And while it was a step out of her comfort zone, at the end of it all, Kalaba is very grateful that she applied.

Throughout her INELI-SSAf journey, Kalaba learned how to build relationships with librarians from around the globe and innovate programs for her library that answered to her community’s needs. For example, she partnered with a local school to teach literacy to adults who never had the opportunity to attend formal schooling. Tasks that she previously viewed as “routine” were also given new life, as she now sees their value in making decisions that will benefit her library and her community.

More than gaining a new perspective on what she can do as a librarian, Kalaba also gained a new perspective on herself. The turning point came when she was listening to an AfLIA speaker talk about leadership, self-esteem, and self-confidence. She asked herself: why couldn’t she believe in herself when she had the potential all along? She got the chance to test herself when she presented what she learned from INELI-SSAf in front of the AfLIA president, who told her, “You are a star. Keep on shining.”

Now, Kalaba believes in her ability to create change. She says, “After the INELI program, l see a vibrant librarian in me who is determined to change the way libraries are seen and perceived today.” Her fellow librarians in Zambia were so impressed by her that they joined INELI’s second cohort.

Months after graduating from INELI-SSAf’s first cohort, Kalaba continues to create and implement new library programs to benefit her community. Students, whose parents are either too busy or don’t know how to read and write, can now get homework help in Kalaba’s homework clinic. To provide further support for learners with reading difficulties, she created a reading corner. Wanting to develop more than just literacy, Kalaba is putting up a wall of history, which includes photos of Zambian presidents. She hopes that this will help children gain a deeper understanding of their culture.

Her passion to teach and serve only grows by the day, and she thanks AfLIA for helping her unlock this potential. She says, “I get the inspiration for everything l do in my library from the Library Leaders from AfLIA. The only way l feel l can pay them back for bringing out the best in me is working hard to serve my community and my country at large.”

“What can I do to make my community a better place?” AfLIA empowers librarians to confidently tackle this question and make their answers a reality, because we believe that every librarian has the potential to create positive impact. Kalaba’s story shows us that with your support, librarians can transform their libraries and in turn, transform their communities. We look forward to your continued support for our second cohort!

Kalaba's first ever presentation about INELI-SSAf
Kalaba's first ever presentation about INELI-SSAf
Young library users learning how to use computers
Young library users learning how to use computers
Homework clinic sessions with young students
Homework clinic sessions with young students
Confidently presenting about her INELI journey
Confidently presenting about her INELI journey
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Mary, an inspiring figure for other librarians
Mary, an inspiring figure for other librarians

Through you support, AfLIA’s empowered librarians have achieved so much since they graduated last May. As we welcome September, we are sharing one of our favorite library strories by an INELI-SSAf mentor who continue to train and empower fellow librarians to become agents of change in their communities.

Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya, is home to roughly 2.5 million people. Here, thousands of families crowd together in makeshift homes. Men and women struggle to get by on low-paying jobs. Children play on dirt roads instead of attending classes because there just aren’t enough schools, and not enough money for their basic supplies. And it’s not just schools; people also have limited clean running water, electricity, and medical centers.

In the middle of it all, Mary’s day is beginning. She heads to the Kibera Library. At first glance, Kibera would not seem like the kind of place one would expect a library to thrive, but Mary, its head librarian, has done just that by turning her library into a safe space for young people to educate themselves and become contributing members of society.

One of her programs focuses on the community’s gang members. With the help of library volunteers, Mary invites successful and inspiring people who grew up in Kibera to talk to children about how they can overcome challenges. Children learn about potential career options, money management techniques, and how to start meaningful initiatives. While most of society had written them off, Mary knew that these children had the potential to build a better future for themselves. Today, many of these gang members are regulars in the library and even help keep the peace in the community.

Mary created the program because she believed in the community and understood its specific challenges. She mentors other librarians to create their own programs across Africa. We need more people like Mary who can drive impactful change in places that would otherwise be neglected. Oftentimes, people ask Mary if she is a “social worker” or a “community development officer.” She proudly replies that she is a librarian who aims to build dreams and transform lives, the same way a book or a favorite author can shape minds.

This is the kind of change that pioneering library services can bring to their communities! We hope you continue supporting us and help trasform more libraries in Africa to bring new opportunities for learning for all people, no matter what background. 

Libraries bringing opportunities for all people
Libraries bringing opportunities for all people

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Nothing but smiles from the participants
Nothing but smiles from the participants

In 2016, the INELI-SSAf program began with a group of 32 promising librarians and 8 mentors working to transform libraries into engines for growth. For two years, the librarians immersed themselves in leadership development and project management and skills most librarians don’t typically get a chance to learn. Aside from learning how to partner with other organizations and making data-driven decisions, librarians learned to identify the needs of their communities and to create innovative programs that addressed them. On the 11th of May 2018, the long journey culminated with a three-day celebration that capped on the last day with a graduation ceremony.

As part of the ceremony, graduates presented updates on their programs which addressed problems like access to education, high illiteracy rates, and lack of employment opportunities. They traded ideas on how to engage their communities, scale their programs and reach more people.

Purity of the Nakuru Library in Kenya talked about starting with the little things. At first, it was making sure that the library was a place where everyone can come and learn. For children who love to read, they provided books and e-learning resources. For those who are artistically inclined, they hosted painting classes with local artists and organized art workshops. She gradually added more programs, even working with public schools to help improve children’s grades. She introduced Maths-Whizz, a virtual online tutor that teaches math through fun interactive games. One of her frequent library-goers, 13 year old Abby said that she used to get a grade of 70 in Math but since she started using Maths-Whizz, her grades went up to 90. Nakuru Public Library's excellent work in helping their community was recognized at the 2017 Maktaba Awards as the most innovative public library in Kenya.

Purity’s story is just one of many. Our librarians change lives everyday across Africa through programs such as inclusive reading clubs for hearing-impaired and blind library-users in South Africa and Uganda, or by bringing literacy classes to street children in Nigeria. Your donations have come a long way in making these programs a reality for their communities. We look forward to your continued support as we take on a new cohort of librarians who want to go beyond their traditional roles and truly serve their communities.

The much-awaited graduation ceremony was a sea of colors and sashes, of bright smiles and eager eyes. Each librarian was greeted with cheers and applause as they received their Certificates of Completion. But, the event was not just a celebration of the 32 librarians’ achievements. It represented the possibilities ahead when librarians are supported to become agents of development. Gone were the archaic notions of librarians as book keepers who spent their days organizing book shelves. Now, librarians can empower other people to find employment, learn new skills, start businesses, express themselves, and help develop their communities. Now, they can help people transform their lives. This is the new generation of African librarians.

Awarding of Certificates
Awarding of Certificates
Awarding the mentors for the next cohort
Awarding the mentors for the next cohort

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Organization Information

The African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA

Location: Accra - Ghana
Website:
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Twitter: @#aflia
Project Leader:
Helena Asamoah-Hassan
Accra, Ghana
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