Lubuto Library Partners: Serving Vulnerable Children in Africa

“The world is a global village.”

This famous Marshall McLuhan adage is more relevant today than ever before. It is particularly apt  in the library world, because librarians are socially conscious contributors to the global village in many ways.

A recent post here told about iSchool students making a difference in the education of young girls in India, for example. Lubuto Library Partners (formerly the Lubuto Library Project) is an organization dedicated to improving the lives of street children in Zambia through the creation of libraries. (The word “Lubuto” is a term in the Bemba language conveying the ideas of “knowledge, enlightenment and light.”)

lubuto library assignment
Children complete an assignment in one of the new Zambian libraries made possible by Lubuto Library Partners. (Source: Lubuto Library Project Flickr stream/Jane Meyers)

Making a Difference

I had the opportunity to speak with Jane Kinney Meyers, founder of the organization, and learned that Lubuto Library Partners opened its third library this past November.

The library is the first one to be located in rural Zambia. It is truly a community effort. For example, locals gathered the grasses for the roof and selected a name in their indigenous language -Mumuni, which conveys the same idea as “Lubuto” in the local peoples’ native tongue. The opening of this library is a big event in Zambia.

Librarian Input Assures a Relevant Library

One of the things Meyers emphasized was the importance the organization places on selection of resources by professional librarians and specific guidelines for book donations. Many libraries created by NGOs and other entities in Africa have served as nothing more than “book dumps,” in other words, there was no selection process or quality control in what was donated. This may have led to a perception in some cases that public libraries in Africa were of little practical use.

Lubuto on the other hand, works with both communities and librarians to assure that the materials in their libraries are appropriate and relevant. Although much of the collections are English language children’s books, Lubuto partners are working to include special collections of Zambian materials in a digital library format.

Meyers believes that this effort is a “win-win”: the communities benefit by the services and educational opportunities available for an underserved population, and the value of librarians and libraries is demonstrated to those who either lacked awareness or misunderstood the potential for libraries to be vehicles for community improvement.

Jane Kinney Meyers with boys at one of the new libraries (source Lubuto Library  Partners Flickr page)
Jane Kinney Meyers with boys at one of the new libraries (Source: Lubuto Library Partners Flickr page)

Lubuto Library Partners on Social Media

Lubuto has many avenues for you to follow its progress, including a newsletter, blog, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Getting Involved

When I asked Meyers to get involved with Lubuto Library Partners, she first was eager to point out the tremendous support that has been given through members of the Special Libraries Association.

Several SLA members are on the board of directors, and many organizations which employ special librarians have been generous in funding. Seeking funding is, of course, always a critical aspect of such efforts and Meyers welcomes interest in businesses and organizations interested in providing financial support.

If a student or librarian is interested in donating time, s/he should contact the Washington, DC office. There, they say, “Tell us your skills and interests, and we will likely find a place for you to help out!”

Have you got some thoughts about the Lubuto initiative? Please leave your comments here!

Elaine Lasda Bergman

CAS in Data Science, '15 Librarian at the University at Albany emlasdab@syr.edu

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