Libraries are a critical component of the educational infrastructure of any country: they offer young people opportunities to develop literacy skills, to acquire and deepen knowledge, and to connect with other learners outside of the classroom. In Haiti where 80% of the nation lives below the poverty line and a considerable wealth gap continues to grow between the rich and the poor, Librarians Without Borders (LWB) strongly believes that libraries can address education inequities by providing free access to reading materials and computers. Right now as the country strives to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake and to invest in education for its youth, libraries cannot be considered a luxury.
To that end, LWB is partnering with Lycee Jean-Baptiste Cineas, a public school located in the northern city of Limbe, with a population of 85,000. The school is regarded highly within the community because of its dedicated staff and innovative director, Gerald Jean-Baptiste. Founded in 1993 the school serves over 2000 students from the local area as well as surrounding communities. Students rotate into the school in morning and afternoon shifts with an average class size of 100 students. The school’s enrolment swelled following the earthquake as people moved into Limbe out of thePort-au-Prince area.
The school has only basic amenities and lacks a library with reading materials. Without supplemental reading and research materials, says Director Jean-Baptiste, students rely on rote classroom learning. The school identified a library as being one of their greatest needs, and LWBoffered our support to them. Our relationship began by seeding their library collection with a book-drive run by our LWB McGill University committee, and has evolved into a pledge to the staff and students by LWB International to mark their 20th school anniversary in January 2013 with an in-progress library to commemorate the occasion.
Our goal over eight months (September 2012 – April 2013) is to aid the design and construction of the physical library, to develop an appropriately targeted collection of books, to create programming that integrates the library into the school’s curriculum, and to train aHaitian staff member in the role of librarianto care for and manage the library for future generations. Eventually the school’s Director would like the library to serve the community at large.
To fund this initiative, Librarians Without Borders has applied to Better World Books for funds to help construct and develop this library for Lycee Jean-Baptiste Cineas.
LWB is an organization committed to sustainable, collaborative, high impact initiatives with community partners. We are run by professional and emerging librarians whose professional skill-set is focused on resourcing, managing, and operating libraries. We have experience successfully managingprojects like the one proposed here. For example, our work with Asturias Academy school library (Guatemala) is now in its third consecutive year. We have also initiated a successful pilot partnership with Libraries Across Africa to provide the librarian expertise for their vision of community libraries in Africa.