Libraries Helping Communities Around the World
Libraries are often the cornerstone of communities. Libraries offer people free internet, resources, events, workshops and books. These resources allow many people to pursue education. In the United States, more people have easy access to libraries than in developing nations. However, there have been libraries helping communities all over the world find creative ways to access the resources a library can provide.

The Zambia Library Service

The Zambia Library Service aims to bring more provincial and public libraries to the country, to improve the libraries in schools and colleges, and to provide more digital resources to educators. This library now has a collection of more than 60,000 books, despite struggling to receive government support. The library service started six provincial libraries that serve about 400,000 individual members and 850,000 institutions every year. Furthermore, it established the Zambia Knowledge Center in 2011 to help provide Zambia’s educators and students with a wealth of online sources from around the globe.

The library continues to advocate for the expansion of copyright laws so that more people can receive access to videos, e-books, audiobooks, journals and websites. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zambia Library Service aims to provide new opportunities for community members to engage with the library. It hosts movie nights, events for International Girl Child Day and a Girl’s Club.

Bangkok’s The Library Train Project

Police Major General Jarumporn Suramanee started The Little Train Project in Bangkok in 1999. He converted two old train cars into a library and education center. These cars have a school area for classroom lessons and a library with books, computers and a television. Suramanee initiated this project because the number of homeless children in the city had been steadily increasing. As such, it was designed to give children an opportunity to receive an education, a place to stay during the day and options for a better future.

Bangkok’s library train features lessons in typical academic subjects and classes on topics such as manners, sports and gardening. Though children are not required to attend class, many enjoy coming to the library to use the resources it has to offer. Furthermore, the library has aided its patrons in other ways, such as helping individuals find a job or helping homeless children find families who want to take them in. It is also intentionally located in the park so it is as accessible as possible.

Norway’s The Bokbåten Epos

Norway’s The Bokbåten Epos was a boat that aimed to give books and other cultural resources to small, rural, fjord communities. The ship visited 150 small villages in less than a month after it was built in 1959. The boat was designed to hold 6,000 books, but it often circulated 20,000 books at a time. Furthermore, the ship would often bring other events such as concerts and plays—usually the only cultural events these villages would see in a year.

Unfortunately, The Bokbåten Epos shut down in 2020. This upset many Norwegian citizens. However, the government hopes to find a solution that is more cost-effective, environmentally friendly and that can access more areas. The Bokbåten Epos could also serve as a model for other libraries committed to helping communities.

Zimbabwe’s Donkey-Drawn Libraries

A nonprofit called Rural Libraries and Resources Development Programme (RLRDP) started a mobile library project to help provide more resources to Zimbabwe’s rural schools in 1990. These schools struggled to be acknowledged and receive the needed funding. These 15 mobile libraries can hold up to 1,000 books each. Additionally, four donkeys pull these books along to increase the distance the mobile libraries can travel.

These mobile libraries work with communities to tailor services to people’s needs, such as using bikes to deliver books or making more stops if there are elderly patrons or patrons with disabilities. Additionally, some of these carts have solar electricity and internet access that allow access to e-books and educational resources, as well as make it possible to hold movie events. These mobile libraries have helped nearly 1,600 people and have become an integral part of communities.

Many people who live in impoverished, rural areas do not have access to books or other services that libraries provide. These innovative libraries are focused on helping impoverished communities and have successfully helped thousands of people. Efforts like these around the world have the power to transform education in developing countries.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

Books for the World's Poor
Globally, approximately 10 percent of men and 17 percent of women over the age of 15 cannot read or write. However, through book donations, many organizations are bringing literature to communities in developing countries as a way to help improve literacy rates. These donations are helping children have a higher quality education and making it easier for adults to learn new skills. Here are three organizations focused on providing books for the world’s poor.

3 Organizations Providing Books for the World’s Poor

  1. Book Aid International
    In 2018, Book Aid International delivered 1.28 million books to people all over the world. They sent books to public and community libraries, university libraries, refugee camps, medical libraries, primary and secondary schools and prisons. As poverty affects people of all ages, genders and ethnicities, Book Aid International focuses on bringing books to all people. They have provided literature to communities where girls are prevented from entering classrooms and libraries, as well as to schools where children have no choice but to share old and torn up textbooks. They believe that without literacy skills the world’s poor will be unable to break away from the cycle of poverty. Thanks to this organization, around 21.4 million people had access to books in 2018.
  2. Brother’s Brother Foundation
    Brother’s Brother Foundation is an organization that promotes international health and education. Founded in 1958, their efforts have provided books for the world’s poor, along with medical, agricultural and educational resources. Their main objective is to bring good health care, education and nutrition to those in the world that lack it. To accomplish this, they work with local agencies in 149 countries. Some of the local agencies they partner with include hospitals, universities, health care departments, schools and religious organizations. With additional support from the United States and other countries, they have provided over $4 trillion in goods and services to the world’s poor. By bringing books to these nations, they have been able to provide some of the tools that the world’s poor need to believe in a better future. The textbooks donated are educating not only children but adults around the world.
  3. Bibliotheques Sans Frontieres (Libraries Without Borders)
    This French-based organization provides books for the world’s poor in over 50 countries. They work in 24 languages and have selected more than 30,000 pieces of literature that will help educate the world’s poor on the major issues of the world. Much of the literature they provide centers around education, health, employment, citizenship, disability and digital knowledge. Since 2007, Libraries Without Borders has touched the lives of more than 2 million people. One of the ways they have been able to reach so many people is through their Ideas Boxes, media library kits that are easily transportable. First designed for refugee camps, they are now found in neighborhoods and rural areas as well. Filled with books, tablets and mobile videos, Ideas Boxes provide vulnerable communities with content that is well adapted to meet their needs and in their own language. Libraries Without Borders has provided Ideas Boxes for more than 850,000 refugees and intends to continue growing this program.

Books and literature are a tool that many of the world’s poor do not have access to but these influential organizations are working to provide books for the world’s most vulnerable people. Due to their donations, more people have access to books that allow them to gain knowledge and new skills.

The next time you are thinking about getting rid of some books in your own library at home, consider donating them to one of these organizations. Help bring joy, knowledge and power to the people who need them the most.

Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Flickr