Category: Ghana

Cultivate a Love of Libraries: Give to Librarians Without Borders

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Dear LWB Friends and Supporters,

This holiday season share your love of libraries, literacy, and education by giving to Librarians Without Borders.

Your monetary gift helps our organization continue to do great work in global communities like Guatemala and Ghana. Our volunteers, comprised of librarians and LIS students from North America and Europe, work with our program partners  to provide library services, collections, and literacy programs for communities like Chajul, Guatemala, where the indigenous Mayan Ixil children and their families live in poverty after Guatemala’s 36-year civil war left the community devastated.

At the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, our focus is on developing the school library to provide resources and programs for students and their families, and making reading as fundamental and educational as we know it can be. Over the last five years, LWB has funded two professional librarians to work at the Asturias Academy; created literacy programs for students; provided materials for teachers to use in the classroom; and, during our annual Service Trips, hosted a “Library Day” celebration. With LWB’s support, the Asturias Library is now the heart of the school. We are endlessly proud to report that with our work and the donations of our supporters, the Library is now officially lending books to students with community-lending as our next target. Closed stacks are the norm in Guatemala, so this is unprecedented!

Guatemala’s Limitless Horizons Ixil, which LWB began partnering with in 2013, works tirelessly to educate a community where only 2.5% of adults are formally educated. LHI works with community youth to develop the skills they need to provide for their families and to make a positive change in the community. The Saber Sin Límites (Limitless Knowledge) Community Library opened in 2010 as the first and only community library in Chajul.  The library connects 1,500 members with 3,800 books, sees 250 unique visitors each week and hosts an astounding 80 children at story hour. LWB is proud to work with LHI to continue to develop the capacity of the library to serve the community and to provide training for its emerging librarians.

And finally, in 2015 we’ll provide support as our partner Librii opens their first library in Accra, Ghana. With LWB’s complementary expertise researching library services created specifically for urban Accra, Librii has seen their vision for a community library take shape in the form of re-purposed shipping container. Stocked with computers and information resources, Librii will provide customized digital and print content, with services localized to the community’s needs.

There’s more to come. You can help by donating to Librarians Without Borders.

Give a donation as a gift on behalf of someone special, and we’ll send a personalized thank you email and letter by mail. And if you’d like to spread the word about LWB, we’ve got a special holiday line of LWB swag featuring a very happy snowman that makes a perfect gift.

Thank you for your support.

~Librarians Without Borders 


Getting to Know Librii’s David Dewane

David DewaneLibrarians Without Borders recently had the pleasure of catching up with David Dewane, Founder and Executive Director of Librii, an LWB partner program working towards opening its first library in Accra, Ghana. Dewane opened up about Librii’s humble beginnings, the research and thought that goes into an undertaking of this magnitude – in a foreign country no less – and how LWB was instrumental to the process. 


You might be surprised – and, if you’re also a student, encouraged – to learn that LWB partner program Librii, the library “specialized to meet Africa’s information demand with educational services, high-end digital resources, and books” originated as a graduate student project at Rice University. “I was researching areas where physical space, people and information mingle, and what that means in the age of digitizing information,” David Dewane remembers. “The library was the typology where this should be happening, as the place where people and information come together.”

Dewane’s train of thought lead him to really consider the space of the library in the shifting wide web world. Who has access to information? And how do they get it?  A breakthrough came when he concluded that “libraries are no longer just places where people come to get knowledge in a contemplative way; they are places where people come to make things.”  

“It was such a radical idea!” Dewane adds. “And such a notion of the library as at one time being a collection of resources, but also the building that houses them. And beyond collection and building, a space – that libraries are spaces that serve the human desire for collectivity. I love the idea of the persistent desire for collectivity, despite the web making things less necessary for collectivity. Libraries are more crucial than ever.

To aid in his library/space question, Dewane turned to the trusted source that all of us eventually seek out in the throes of a research question: a Rice University librarian. Soon Dewane brought together all his research into a plan for an actual library space. And then things aligned in his favor: a World Bank competition came across his path at that moment, allowing Dewane to gain a small development grant, but more importantly, some major interest in the project, initially titled Libraries Across Africa.

The idea was to develop libraries in India, a country Dewane was familiar with. But with the inclusion of the World Bank resources, and after researching important key factors including an analysis of language, ease of doing business, and freedom of press, African countries came to the forefront. Dewane explains that things finally came down to Ghana or Kenya, but confirms, “West Africa just felt right. It was a mix of intuition and objective subjective rational.” Africa, and Ghana in particular, also captured Dewane’s imagination with the continent’s narrative regarding the digital divide. “The expansion of fiber optics into sub Saharan Africa took place in 2009-2010 when the first cable landed there. It was mind blowing to realize they were just getting broadband!”

And that’s when it all conceptualized into the Librii we know today: a concept inspired by the prolific building spree of library hero Andrew Carnegie, who, between 1883 and 1929 helped create 2509 libraries throughout the world. But what Dewane admires most about Carnegie was his motive for helping communities obtain a library of their own. “This is a very clear and present model. It’s a massive scale, and hardly anyone ever talks about it. 2500 libraries over 30 years means opening a brand new library every five days! They were everywhere in the English speaking world, and in the Pacific Rim…Carnegie didn’t want to give food or medical aid, the basic aid philanthropy: he wanted to meet people halfway and provide tools to industrial people.”

The Carnegie Formula became the standard for communities requesting funds to build a public library. It required that they demonstrate the need for a library; provide a building site; come up with ten percent of the cost of the library’s construction to support the operation costs; and provide free service.

“Carnegie started listening more to librarians about how libraries should function: in the middle of the community, allowing people to access materials themselves, expand the collection to serve everyone – including women & kids – and give free service to all. One of the components for Carnegie building the library was that you prove that your community actually needed one. The Carnegie formula was how you built libraries.

Once Librii decided on Ghana as the first locale for its library, LWB and Librii partnered up, with LWB providing key research into the potential library users. “The partnership is incredibly valuable and generated very helpful reports that Librii couldn’t have done in-house,” Dewane says. As Librii gets closer to implementation, develops a training regime for the on-site librarians, and works through the ethical concerns facing a new library, LWB’s support will be crucial. “We need help from librarians. People like knowledgeable, credible librarians.”


Artist mock up of Librii’s library in Accra, Ghana.

Still needed are more generous donations. Then Librii will be on track to pack up, ship, and open its first library in Accra, providing students and working adults with a space to find information, and strengthen the knowledge of the community.

Support Our Partner’s Kickstarter Campaign for Ghanaian Library

Goal: $50,000 to launch a digitally-enhanced, community library

Campaign Ends: April 4, 2013

Since January 2012, Librarians Without Borders has been working with Libraries Across Africa to help develop their model and make this idea a reality in Accra, Ghana.

By backing this Kickstarter project YOU will be the first in the world to see these designs go into construction and have your name hand-written on the wall of the library to recognize your contribution to this innovative library model.

From LWB’s perspective, we think this library has the potential to help fulfill the educational needs of many young Ghanaians who don’t have access to post-secondary learning and training opportunities.

With the rising rate of Ghana’s youth population and an increase in secondary school graduates each year, many qualified students do not gain admission in the tertiary education institutions due to lack of space and financial assistance. The greatest challenge for Ghana will be to provide sufficient places in school or gainful jobs for the 5.5 million youth in 2015.

And we think that the Librii has the potential to help with these learning needs. Can you support our partner? Please spread the word throughout your networks.

Ottawa Feb 13 Event: E-readers and community generated e-collections in Ghanaian society

Research Conversations at the University of Ottawa School of Information Studies

Feb 13 from 1-2:30 in Simard Bldg, Room 12

LWB Student and Ghana Team member Rebecca Ross will be presenting her research from her directed reading course on the LWB-Ghana Team.

Topic: “E-readers and community generated e-collections: opportunities and challenges of print on demand in Ghanaian society”

If you’re in the Ottawa area, consider joining the lunch conversation and hearing about Rebecca’s work with LWB.



Developing a Reading Culture: Worldreader in Ghana

Amanda Oliver

Encouraging and promoting reading will help inculcate it as habit. With ereaders and digital books, many are exploring the question of leapfrogging from print to digital – can it work? LWB-Ghana team member Amanda Oliver writes about Worldreader and its efforts to introduce digital books into communities.

Worldreader is a non-profit organization whose goal is to supply children in Africa with free e-readers. David Risher, the founder of Worldreader, believes that providing access to digital books to children in sub-Saharan Africa is a key component in developing a reading culture there. He aims to send 1 million Kindle e-readers to Ghana, Kenya and Uganda within the next year.

Earlier this year, Worldreader released the results from its pilot study, which took place in Ghana between October 2010 and July 2011. 481students and teachers at participating pilot schools were given Kindles and data was collected during the length of the project. The report divides the findings into positive and negative effects:

Positive Effects
• Increased access to books and enthusiasm towards reading
• Increased resources for teachers
• Increased technological skills (students and teachers learned skills quickly)
• Increased performance on standardized scores
• Increased exposure to Ghanaian literature
• Students shared their e-readers with friends and family

Negative Effects
• Breakage – over half had some form of breakage occur during the study
• Dissatisfaction with some features (such as unintended book deletion)
• Sample population was not geographically representative
• Exposure reduced due to unforeseen events (teachers strike, device breakage)

Worldreader and Amazon are working together to make improvements to the devices to decrease the breakage rate and eliminate unwanted features. Worldreader believes that if the cost of e-readers continues to decrease, “…the e-reader would be an efficient, cost effective method to distribute textbooks and educational material” (IREAD Ghana Study, 2012, pg. 7). This project demonstrates that with the access to books and some encouragement, a reading culture may develop organically.

Download and view the report here from the Worldreader website.

Fostering Reading as Habit in Ghana

The Reading Culture in Ghana: An Introductory Post

Amanda Oliver and Emily McHugh, McGill University

Reading should not only be realized as an activity for the classroom. Encouraging and promoting reading in non-academic aspects of life will help inculcate it as habit, and libraries can serve an important role in doing so. LWB-Ghana team members Amanda and Emily are examining the status of reading in Ghana, and then looking at how best practices for fostering a reading culture could be applied in a Ghanaian context. Below they share some of the questions guiding their work.

According to Jönsson and Olsson (2007), a reading culture is a “…culture where reading is valued highly and a habit amongst its members” (p. 4). It is important to note that within a reading culture there is no delineation between reading as necessary for work or academic purposes, and reading for pleasure; a true reading culture is comprised of both. By contrast, this means that school enrollment rates are corollary to any reading culture; the academic reading must be in conjunction with the leisure reading.

We were exposed to a culture’s reading and library culture as participants on the 2011 LWB Guatemala service learning trip. This sparked our interest in how a society cultivates a reading culture and what barriers exist in fostering this culture. For example, in Guatemala the government is a barrier for the development of a reading culture. There are no lending libraries in Guatemala and books in libraries are in closed stacks. This does not promote reading outside of the library.

What is the current status of reading habits in Ghana? Ghana is ranked 185th on the Literacy Rates of the World list with a literacy rate of 57.9%. The National Education Assessment stated that, in Ghana 90% of sixth graders do not have basic numeracy skills and 75% of sixth graders cannot read or write in any language (CaselyHayford & Hartwell, 2010, p. 539). By comparison, Zimbabwe’s literacy rate, currently the highest literacy rate in Africa, is 90.7%.

Are there any social, economic, or political barriers to the cultivation of a reading culture in Ghana? What are the best practices for developing a reading culture among different populations? Have these best practices been successfully implemented in Ghana or other African countries? These are a few of the research questions we will be investigating as part of the LWB-Ghana research team.

References and Related Reading

CaselyHayford, L., & Hartwell, A. (2010). Reaching the underserved with complementary education: lessons from Ghana’s state and non-state sectors. Development in Practice 20 (4-5), 527-539.

Jönsson, A., & Olsson, J. (2007). Reading culture and literacy in Uganda: The case of the “Children Reading Tent” (Master’s thesis).

Reflection on Libraries As Space

Libraries As Space: Why is it Important?

Whitney Spencer, Dalhousie University

Research into the library as place investigates the role of library buildings as destinations. As an LWB-Ghana Team member, Whitney is examining how libraries are used as space in Africa, including how they are currently being used and, importantly, opportunities for how they could be used. Below she muses on what makes a library a “library”, and how that is changing.

Close your eyes. What do you imagine when I ask about “libraries”?  What immediately pops into your head? I’m willing to bet that, almost without exception, all of you pictured a library: a physical place that occupies a physical space. It might be a public library, a school library, a specialized library; the fact remains that you see a real place, and not an ephemeral construct.

Why are library buildings important? There have been so many changes to libraries over the years that their physical spaces have changed enormously. “Rethinking Roles, Rethinking Space” has become somewhat of a mantra when thinking of libraries because of the shifting patterns of usage and need.

What is a library? Definition aside, a library is a community space. It holds the collective memory of a community; all of its knowledge and resources. It is a hub for people to come and access this information from a myriad of ways: books, periodicals, computers, programs, and much, much more.

The physical building is a very important aspect of the library. The content defines the knowledge, but the library defines the feel. When you walk in the door, do you feel welcomed? Is the library loud, or quiet? Does the layout make sense, or feel like a maze?

All of this makes up the library space, the most tangible and important part of the library. These are culturally symbolic spaces where everything comes together: the books, the information, the computers, the feeling, the people. Everything, ideally, is laid out in a well-thought-out manner that reflects the needs of the community. Most libraries will, at the minimum, have at least these features:

  • Collection space
  • User seating/space
  • Staff work space
  • Meeting room space and/or special use/ program space
  • Non-assignable space (bathrooms, stairs, support beams, and so on)

But it does not need to always be the case. Libraries should be built in such a way as to offer the best services to their community.

Close your eyes again. Imagine your own special library. What does the physical space mean to you? Every library is different, each space is its own. No matter the age of the library, or where it was built, each is a unique reflection of the community. They will grow, alter, and change as time moves forward, but they will always be a space designed for the community that needs them.

Some Related Reading

Library As  Place: Rethinking Roles, Rethinking Space
(Council on Library and Information Resources)

Perceptions of Public Libraries in Africa

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