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

by Maria's Libraries
Mar 5, 2014

A Story of Politics, Development and Infrastructure

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.


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Organization Information

Maria's Libraries

Location: Brooklyn, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Maria's Libraries
Project Leader:
Ariel Schwartz
Austin, TX United States

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