We work with local communities on the formation of libraries.
However, how we do that is quite unique. We select a community that meets our strict selection criteria and we work with them for about six months before we build a playground. Together.
Why playground? The playground helps us establish working relationship. It gives the community an opportunity to get to know us. It gives us the opportunity to get to know the community. We establish greater trust. But we also introduce certain skills that we need the community to posses. Some of those are decision making, rather than looking to us for solutions. Troubleshooting, rather than relying on external intervention. And above all maintenance and management of a playground. If the community fails in this task (and unfortunately one community has) we cannot proceed with the library project.
We also create playgrounds for a much simpler reason. We need the children to start coming to an otherwise empty field.
In the UK we spend about 12 months on collecting and cataloguing books and other items in the UK. Around May/June we pack and ship the container over to Kenya. The 40ft container will become the library.
When we arrive we rely heavily on the local community’s enthusiasm and willingness to be involved. But we already know their characters and know we can leave the conversion project in their hands. After about 42 hard days our library is finished and ready to welcome its many readers.
We maintain ownership of the container, but the community assumes ownership of the library. They are responsible for making all decision such as opening days and hours, activities and outreach programmes. We do not interfere unless we are asked. We do make sure though that the library is used as a library by all who want to read and we support the librarians when and where we can.